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India v Sri Lanka ICC Trophy Semi-final preview

The first thing to point out as India and Sri Lanka prepare to fight it out in the second ICC Champions Trophy semi-final is that rain is forecast for South Wales tomorrow and if the match isn’t completed it will be India, as group winners, who will progress to the final.

If they manage to get away with a full day in Cardiff, India will still be confident of making it to Edgbaston on Sunday – they are 4/7 with Coral – but the shorter the match, the bigger the chance of an upset and it’s not like Sri Lanka (11/8) are hopeless outsiders anyway.

India have, by common consensus and backed up by their impeccable record of played three, won three, been the best team in this tournament, but as we know, the best team doesn’t always win the Cup, whatever the sport, and Sri Lanka have batsmen and bowlers who can turn a match on their day.

Kumar Sangakkara played arguably the best innings of the championship so far against England in the second Group A match, while Mahela Jayawardane’s effort against Australia in the final group game was not far behind in terms of effectiveness and quality.

Lasith Malinga has once again been brilliant with the ball and has had impressive back-up from fine all-rounder Nuwan Kulasekera.

India, though, have aces of their own, including one of the players of the tournament, if not the player, Shikhar Dhawan, who has amassed a total of 264 runs from his three innings and is rated 11/4 by Coral to top score for his side tomorrow. Virat Kohli (3/1) and Rohit Sharma (7/2) have also done their bit so effectively that captain M S Dhoni (7/1), often Indian’s saviour, has hardly got a look in.

This side is barely recognisable from the team that beat Sri Lanka in the 2011 World Cup Final with Dhawan and others now given their opportunity to shine after waiting in the wings while legends like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid were on stage, but on the evidence of this tournament, India’s future is in very good hands.

On paper, Coral’s 4/6 India to have the higher opening partnership is a complete no-brainer: Dhawan and Sharma have enjoyed partnerships of 127, 101 and 58 in the games so far, compared to Sri Lanka’s 0, 10 and 8, but it must be remembered that the whole dynamic of the contest will change if the weather forecast is correct.

So while India are quite rightly considered favourites, this might not be so straightforward and in-play punters will always have one eye on the Cardiff skies.

Written by Jon Freeman