India favourites in tri-nations tournament

INDIA, Sri Lanka and New Zealand hope to put in impressive performances in a tri-series starting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, today to boost confidence ahead of the Champions Trophy.

INDIA, Sri Lanka and New Zealand hope to put in impressive performances in a tri-series starting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, today to boost confidence ahead of the Champions Trophy.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India side start as favourites despite missing injured opener Virender Sehwag and paceman Zaheer Khan, having beaten both New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their own backyards in their last one-day series.

India are seeking a hat trick of wins in Sri Lanka after clinching a pair of bilateral five-match series in August last year and in February this year.

Each team will play two league matches before the top two qualify for the final on September 14. The hosts clash with New Zealand in today' opening game.

Sri Lanka's record-breaking Muttiah Muralitharan believes the series will help the teams prepare for the eight-nation Champions Trophy that opens in South Africa on September 22.

"The tri-series will be good preparation for the upcoming Champions Trophy," said Muralitharan, the off-spinner who is the world's leading wicket-taker in Tests (783) and one-day internationals (511). "It will be a great test for the Sri Lankan team."

Daniel Vettori's New Zealanders salvaged some of their reputation when they stunned the hosts in two Twenty20 internationals last week after being whitewashed in the preceding two-Test series.

"The guys will take a lot of confidence from that," Vettori said after his team's Twenty20 success. "They can take that into the one-dayers. For us, to make the final will be a great stepping stone for the Champions Trophy."

Vettori was impressed with Shane Bond's form in the Twenty20 matches in Colombo where the paceman bagged three crucial wickets.

Indian batsman Rahul Dravid got the selectors' nod after a couple of younger batsmen failed to cope with short-pitched deliveries in the World Twenty20. India play New Zealand on Friday and Sri Lanka on Saturday. - Sapa-AFP

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