By this stage, this seems more like a benefit function for India’s cricketers than a competitive series. Rohit Sharma has emphatically broken his poor run on the island, Virat Kohli has padded his stats with a couple of good scores, Jasprit Bumrah has secured a maiden five-wicket haul, and most recently, Manish Pandey has made a strong return to the ODI team. Elsewhere through the tour, India’s players have been taking in the sights, planting trees, and enjoying meals at Sri Lankan players’ homes. Save for that 35-minute crowd disruption at Pallekele, and one collapse against Akila Dananjaya, almost nothing in the tour so far has been objectionable.
Sri Lanka’s myriad problems have been endlessly recounted through the tour, but in this match they will at least be led by regular captain Upul Tharanga, who returns from a two-match suspension. Though Sri Lanka have lost the chance to lock down their 2019 World Cup berth, there remains something to play for. If they win this game, West Indies will need to win all five of their ODIs against England, as well as the game against Ireland, to pip Sri Lanka in the rankings. If Sri Lanka lose here, West Indies could need to win one fewer match against England.
But still, for all that, so dominant have India been through the series that a 5-0 result seems the most likely by a distance
Sri Lanka LLLLL(completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
He has not scored an international century since August 2015, and he had only scored one ODI fifty in his first nine innings this year, but during the 80-ball 70 on Thursday, at least, Angelo Mathews seemed to regain a little of his old self. He seemed to have a little zip with the ball as well – two wickets falling off one of his overs. During Sri Lanka’s woeful 2017, it is probably fair to say that no one’s contributions have been missed more than Mathews’.
While virtually all his team-mates have prospered, KL Rahul has skidded through the series with scores of 4, 17 and 7. Perhaps it hasn’t helped that he has been moved around the order – coming in at No. 4 in the second ODI, No. 3 in the third, and No. 5 in the fourth. Whatever the case, if he gets another chance on Thursday, Rahul will need some runs in order to fend off the talented team-mates who are breathing down his neck.
Danushka Gunathilaka has been ruled out of the match after he failed a fitness Test on Saturday. With Tharanga returning to the XI, however, Lahiru Thirimanne may have to move down the order.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 2 Dilshan Munaweera, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Upul Tharanga (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Lahiru Thirimanne, 7 Milinda Siriwardana, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Dushmantha Chameera/Malinda Pushpakumara, 10 Vishwa Fernando, 11 Lasith Malinga
Shikhar Dhawan will miss the match as he will be flying to India to attend to his ailing mother. Ajinkya Rahane is likely to take his spot. Shardul Thakur, Manish Pandey and Kuldeep Yadav will probably get another outing.
India (probable): 1 Ajinkya Rahane, 2 Rohit Sharma, 3 Virat Kohli (capt.), 4 KL Rahul, 5 Manish Pandey, 6 MS Dhoni (wk), 7 Hardik Pandya, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Kuldeep Yadav, 10 Shardul Thakur, 11 Jasprit Bumrah
Pitch and conditions
The Khettarama track has a little bit of grass again, which means the seamers are likely to be effective. It is possible afternoon showers will interrupt play.
Stats and trivia
If India win the series 5-0, it will be the second successive time that bilateral series between these countries have finished with that scoreline. India had also inflicted a whitewash when Sri Lanka made a hasty tour in 2014, to fill the gap left by West Indies’ withdrawal.
Virat Kohli has now hit seven of his 29 ODI hundreds against Sri Lanka. His second highest tally of centuries against another team is five – against Australia.
With the 49 not out on Thursday, MS Dhoni’s average for 2017 has risen to 91.16, with a strike rate of 85.
Five of Kusal Mendis last eight ODI scores have been either zeros or ones. This is despite his having been a very consistent ODI batsman in the first 12 months after his debut in 2016.
“To be brutally honest, the confidence level in the team is down. I guess that’s natural when you are 0-4 down. But I must say that the guys are trying hard, and their enthusiasm is still pretty high.”
Sri Lanka batting coach Avishka Gunawardana