India firm favourites as their quest to be ruthless continues

India celebrate a wicket © Sri Lanka Cricket

India have always had the upper hand against their neighbours Sri Lanka. Despite a scratchy start, the visitors have improved their record to 28 – 2 after the dominant win in the second ODI at the Pallekele Cricket Stadium in Kandy. Renuka Singh Thakur continued her impressive run in the series with a match-winning performance, while India’s openers were ruthless against Sri Lanka’s bowling.

Now when both teams take on each other in the final ODI on Thursday (July 7), India will once again start as the outright favourites.

What’s at stake?

During the previous ICC Women’s Championship cycle, the subcontinent giant struggled to win the final matches of multiple series, losing all of them after being 2-0 up on as many as four ocassions. One of those came against Sri Lanka and that was the only win the hosts registered in the last cycle.

The new cycle – 2022 to 25 – has just started and South Africa are at the top of the table with three wins against Ireland and India can join them if they sweep the series. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will be hoping for a repeat of that last ODI from the 2018 series. Both teams have a lot to fight for with two championship points at stake, which will bring added interest to what would otherwise have been a dead rubber.

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Players to watch out for

Shafali Verma: The 18-year-old has only played 17 ODI so far in her nascent career, but Verma has seen a lot through those matches. After making splashes in the T20I format, the teenage prodigy had to bide her time to make her debut in the 50-over format. And once she made her debut, she had been part of three series losses against England, Australia, and New Zealand.

After starting as the first-choice opener in the World Cup 2022, Verma was then dropped from the playing XI, before making a comeback even as India exited the global event. In the first two ODIs, it felt like the swashbuckling right-hander was playing within herself despite scoring at a whopping strike rate of 95.49. Batting through the innings and remaining not out in a win is something that showed the mature side of Verma in the second match. Looking at how Verma has formed a formidable partnership with Smriti Mandhana, she will be crucial for India’s chances in this Championship cycle.

Chamari Athapaththu: The Sri Lanka skipper is almost always the key player for their side, but that will be true once again when they take the field on Thursday. Athapaththu was instrumental in the 2018 win with a knock of 115 and the southpaw tends to come good when the stakes are against her and team morale is low. She scored a century in the final ODI against Pakistan after losing the series and followed it up with a match-winning performance against India in the final T20I.

Sri Lanka will be hoping for their talismanic skipper to once again pull off an outstanding performance to help them get on the ICC Championship board.

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Numbers:

  • Shafali Verma has already been part of three century and six-fifty stands in her 17-match ODI career. Her partnership with Smriti Mandhana has been rather prolific, with the duo adding 688 runs at an average of 52.92 runs from 14 innings.
  • Three out of the four centuries Chamari Athapaththu has scored in a bi-lateral series have come in the third and final match of the series.

Predicted XI:

Even though India have won the series, with Championship points at stake and the impending Commonwealth Games, albeit in a different format, they will be looking to keep a settled XI intact. The only thing that remains to be seen is if they will bring Poonam Yadav into the lineup to give her a go in the final match of the tour.

Sri Lanka have a larger squad, but chopping and changing might not serve them any better. Young Vishmi Gunaratne had a difficult time during her debut, but it will be unfair on the promising batter if she had to make way for someone else after just one outing. The hosts’ bowling has been largely good, except for the second ODI, in the face of a dominant Indian lineup.

Sri Lanka: Hasini Perera, Vishmi Gunaratne, Chamari Athapaththu (c), Harshitha Madavi, Kavisha Dilhari, Nilakshi de Silva, Oshadi Ranasinghe, Anushka Sanjeewani (wk), Rashmi de Silva, Inoka Ranaweera, Udeshika Prabodhani

India: Smriti Mandhana, Shafali Verma, Yastika Bhatia (wk), Harmanpreet Kaur (c), Harleen Deol, Richa Ghosh, Deepti Sharma, Pooja Vastrakar, Renuka Singh Thakur, Meghna Singh, Rajeshwari Gayakwad