Barring another rain havoc, the third and final ODI will be a crunch do or die final fling for hosts Sri Lanka against Afghanistan who have everything to play for to square the series. That it is about salvaging pride of stopping a threatening side on a heavyweight ascension will be the clarion call to Lankan skipper Dasun Shanaka and his team to keeping intact an image in which Sri Lanka basks in as the fifth nation in the ICC fold to have won the cricket world cup in 1995-96: In that vein, the challenge boils down to meeting an as never before reality of living up to the fierce Lions status the host nation cricketers are tagged with at the PICS, Kandy.
Indeed, it will be about reeling off the rollicking inherent type of cricket that has been an enriching trade mark that took the nation to world cup glory against a rampant Afghanistan. While the nature of the pitch is a dictate to the outcome, the ability to acclimatising to whatever the conditions is the name of the game, Shanaka’s charges can take heart that they did put the brakes on Afghanistan’s batting mechanism in restricting them to 228 on a slower track. But it took some doing in pushing them back from a threatening 141 for 3 by the 29th over. However, Afghanistan’s gung-ho in the frontline batsmen will certainly be a live threat going by their new found success the Lankans will have to wade off.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of the host team will centrally be the deciding factor. While they were not put to the test by the rain off, how well the Lankan frontline fares will be key to levelling the series. Therein, shedding the cap of depending on individual brilliance that has been a long let down factor to the team’s ills will be focal. The frontline will need to buckle down to the reality that it is all about a collective team game to going the distance.