If Sri Lanka thought they were under pressure in the previous one-day internationals against India, which all ended in defeat, then they ain’t seen nothing yet. The home team need to win both to qualify for the next World Cup.
More drab performances will see them needing West Indies to collapse against England in a whitewash in their 50-over series. But that doesn’t look particularly likely after the Windies stunned England in the second Test and their ODI squad has been boosted by the return of Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels.
But it is good news that this challenge means the last two matches, both in Colombo, are not dead rubbers. There is nothing worse for cricket punters than a meaningless game for both outfits. With so much of the contest played between the ears, any drop in intensity often makes them harder to call.
In short, it is much easier to consider the Lankans when there is something to play for with the series lost. Conversely we might also have a cheeky belief that the Indians will not be quite so gung-ho.
The bookies still rate Sri Lanka as no-hopers. The +350 that Bet365 offer might not like seem major upset territory but in this format such winners are rare indeed. India are not better than -400 with William Hill.
Despite Indian dominance thus far, that price is the realm of folly. You would be utterly bonkers to take that price about India now, for the simple reason that there is a strong toss bias at the Premadasa venue for matches under lights. It’s currently at 60 per cent in favour of the team batting first.
Were Sri Lanka to be given the opportunity to bat first, then there is no way on earth they are a +350 chance. They have a great opportunity to get one of the two wins they need without having to play out of their skin, which the current 4-0 scoreline suggests.
A moderate target of around 260 or 270 could be enough with the ball expected to bend under the floodlights. Lasith Malinga, the experienced Sri Lanka pacer who has taken over as skipper, should relish a tilt at India with scoreboard pressure in his favour and he will have his fellow bowlers fired up.
Malinga may be worth following to be top Sri Lanka bowler on a ground where he has an excellent record. Only two others (Sanatha Jayasuriya and the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan) have taken more wickets than him there. He has 47 wickets at an average 24 and a strike rate of a wicket every 28 balls.
If he repeats that last figure, he will pick up at least two wickets and with him bowling at the death, where victims come easily, he looks value at +400 with BetCRIS.