DateLine: 6th July 2008
Sri Lanka will look to their new spinning sensation Ajantha Mendis to defend their Asia Cup title against batting juggernauts India when the two teams meet in the final here on Sunday.
The 23-year-old from Moratuwa has bowled impressively in a tournament dominated by batsmen, and after going wicketless in the first match took 5-22 against United Arab Emirates and 4-47 against Pakistan to lead his team into the final.
Sri Lanka rested him in the Super League match against India on Thursday after they had already qualified for the final.
Captain Mahela Jayawardene played down the hype around his unorthodox spinner, who has six different deliveries in his armoury.
"We are not going to put lot of pressure on the guy," said Jayawardene of Mendis, who has been in the limelight since making his debut against the West Indies earlier this year.
"He (Mendis) has done what he is capable of doing, we are just going to give him the freedom to go out there and enjoy his first final playing for his country, that's how we are going to treat him," said Jayawardene.
Spinners Upul Chandana and Sanath Jayasuriya contributed to Sri Lanka's 25-run win over India in the 2004 Asia Cup final in Colombo.
Jayawradene said resting Mendis and spearhead Chaminda Vaas in Thursday's game against Pakistan was part of the plan.
"We rested them because we wanted to rest them. It's about executing your game plan," said Jayawardene, whose team are trying to overcome poor form since finishing runners-up to Australia in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean.
Sri Lanka won only eight of their last 22 one-day internationals before this tournament.
"We set ourselves a goal to get into the finals, we now need to focus hard. After trying a few things, which we wanted to try (against India), we have an idea of exactly how we want to go about in the final," said Jayawardene.
The pitch at National Stadium will help his spinners, Mendis and off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, he added.
"We now have played six-seven matches on the squares, which are bound to deteriorate, and the spinners are getting enough spin on the ball. We've been very successful batting first, putting runs on board and defending."
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni admitted it would be a tough final.
"We are playing Sri Lanka, a very good team, so we expect it to be tough, but we are ready for all kinds of challenges in this final," said Dhoni, whose team lost to Pakistan in the final of the tri-series in Dhaka last month.
Dhoni hoped his openers would once again set the pace.
"Our openers have given us good starts and if they continue to do so it would keep pressure off the middle order and set the foundation," said Dhoni.
Sri Lanka : Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Kumar Sangakkara, Sanath Jayasuriya, Mahela Udawatte, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Chamara Silva, Chamara Kapugedera, Kaushal Weeraratne, Thilan Thushara, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis, Jehan Mubarak, Nuwan Kulasekera
India: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha, Manpreet Gony, Rudra Pratap Singh, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar
Umpires: Simon Taufel (AUS), Tony Hill (NZL)
Tv umpire: Zameer Haider (PAK)
Match referee: Alan Hurst (AUS)
(Article: Copyright © 2008 AFP)
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