Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan have bowled pretty well with the new ball in the tournament so far for India. However, coming up against one of the most destructive opening partnerships in the tournament so far poses a significantly tougher challenge for the new ball duo.
If the southpaws succeed in getting the openers quickly, India could apply a stranglehold on the Australian middle order with spin. Conversely, if Watson and Warner see out the new ball successfully, they could establish a launchpad to tee off against the spinners fearlessly.
Who is going to come out on top between Hussey and Ashwin?
The Australian think tank will have earmarked Ravichandran Ashwin's spin as the main weapon in India's bowling attack. Integral to any plans Australia may have devised to negate Ashwin's threat is Mike Hussey. Hussey is by far the best player of spin in the Australian team. He can be relied upon to rotate the strike sensibly, and with his eye set in, he can be an extremely aggressive batsmen with the best slog sweep in the business.
If Ashwin manages to tie down or even snare the wicket of his Chennai Kings teammate, India will have delivered a telling blow. Not many of the others in the Australian middle order, are likely to able to negotiate Ashwin's googlies and carrom balls, and they could be forced into undue risks against Harbhajan Singh.
Do the Australian bowlers have a plan for Kohli and Dhoni?
India's most successful limited overs batsmen are in the middle of a purple patch with seemingly no end in sight. Virat Kohli has become the byword for consistency across all forms of the game, and his consistency in shot selection and elegant use of wrists is a joy to behold for all cricket lovers.
Despite his tribulations with the captaincy amid constant criticism, MS Dhoni has had an excellent year with the bat in limited overs cricket, especially in the subcontinent. Kohli and Dhoni are unlikely to be troubled by Australia's spinners. The onus could end up falling on the young shoulders of Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, or the reliable Shane Watson will hope to continue his knack of getting wickets with his golden arm.
Which team can go bigger in a shortened match?
Like most cricket in Colombo this year, this match is also hostage to uncertain weather. In the event of a shortened match, both teams pack a considerable punch in their batting order. With a significant chance of rain being a factor, Australia would do well to include David Hussey in the side to ally his big-hitting prowess to that of his brothers. Watson and Warner can consistently clear the ropes, but George Bailey and an off-colour Cameron White might put the skids on the Australian run rate. Another concern for the Aussies is that after the inexperienced yet explosive Glen Maxwell, they have a pretty long tail.
India have a plethora of big-hitters, who can be equally at home launching spinners into the stands, or taking fast bowlers to the cleaners. Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir are on par with Watson and Warner in terms of explosiveness. Dhoni can invent the most unnatural shots with the most powerful wrists in the game. Kohli and Suresh Raina can easily get 10 an over, and Rohit Sharma and Yuvraj Singh are two of the most natural strikers of the long ball in limited overs cricket. Furthermore Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Ashwin can all accelerate at the bottom of the order, thus ensuring that India bat big until no.10. A clear advantage that could come in handy in a shortened game.