Bangladesh relying on team effort, not individuals
The only time Bangladesh have reached the final of a one-day tournament, it was through a powerhouse effort from Shakib Al Hasan that helped them beat Sri Lanka. Bangladesh have already turned in two strong performances in the Asia Cup, neither of which have been the result of a dazzling solo effort. Instead, it has been a series of contributions that has helped them stay in the game.
When Tamim Iqbal, looking to shake off a poor run with the bat and the controversy over his selection in the squad, was taking his time at the start of the chase against Pakistan, the usually staid Nazimuddin went for his strokes. Even earlier, when their bowlers toiled without success against the Pakistan openers, some tigerish fielding ensured there were no free runs.
Against India, despite facing a difficult target, Bangladesh successfully pulled off the chase, as for the first time in their history five batsmen scored more than 40 in an ODI. When Shakib Al Hasan fell for a momentum-shifting 49 to a tight stumping call from the third umpire, some wondered whether Bangladesh could cope with the blow, but Mushfiqur Rahim and Nasir Hossain showed they could.
Fast bowler Mashrafe Mortaza called for another team effort in the crunch game against Sri Lanka on Tuesday. "We are not the sort of team that can rely on one or two players," he said. "We need five-six players to do well, like they did against India. I think all of us have the ability to do just that once again."
Mortaza was aware how enormous an achievement it would be if Bangladesh qualify, but was also keen not to add to the pressure on the team. "Before the tournament began I said that we are not here to play the finals, just play good cricket," he said. "We have arrived at this situation after beating India. We will play like we had planned ahead of the tournament, that'll take us ahead."
Sri Lanka were captained by Mahela Jayawardene during the 2009 defeat as well, and he said the Bangladesh team had developed since. "The last time they beat us, I remember somebody asking me if this is a different Bangladesh team," Jayawardene said. "A lot of the younger guys who started four years ago are now mature players; they're experienced. Some of the youngsters they have got in the side are really good talents. They've got a good balanced side, and a couple of good matchwinners as well. That's what you need in a team."
Bangladesh have traditionally been the weakest of the four subcontinent teams, but their recent form made Jayawardene wary. "They've been playing some good cricket in the last few games," he said. "We know that they are a strong team and they know what they need to do. We won't be complacent; we want to finish the tour on a high."
There has been speculation that Sri Lanka will rest their injury-prone pace spearhead, Lasith Malinga, given the heavy workload over the past couple of months and the fact that the match against Bangladesh is a dead-rubber for Sri Lanka. Jayawardene, though, hinted that Malinga would play. "We'll try and play the strongest possible team we can come up with, given the conditions and opposition."
The pitch at the Shere Bangla has generally been batsmen-friendly, easing up further under lights. "It looks like a really good surface," Jayawardene said. "Teams are chasing down big scores. Still there's something for the spinners and pacers. I think it's a good one-day wicket."
In the 2009 match, the track had provided plenty of assistance to the bowlers, with Sri Lanka getting shot out for 147. Bangladesh in reply had tumbled to 11 for 3, before Shakib bailed them out. Mohammad Ashraful had called it their best victory, but they are now presented with an opportunity, against an already eliminated opposition which has spent months on the road, to top that effort.
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo