Bangladesh's new performers in focus against SL
Monday, January 27 - January 31, 2014
Start time 0930 local (0330 GMT)
The last time Bangladesh and Sri Lanka met in a Test was in March 2013, at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo with long grass on the outfield. Tamim Iqbal went off in a huff after failing to get the ball to the boundary more times than he would have liked; match referee David Boon strolled out to talk to the curator, telling him to keep it consistent throughout the game. Sri Lanka managed to win the Test, and the series, but the game wasn't without its share of fun.
Bangladesh-Sri Lanka contests have not been fun, except for those cricket fans who like heavy thrashings and batting records. That has been the real story of these two teams since 2001. Over the last three years, the big defeats have lessened but the batting records have continued.
In the first Test of the 2013 series, however, some of the batting records went Bangladesh's way. Mushfiqur Rahim scored the country's first Test double-hundred, while Mohammad Ashraful made 190, his highest Test score. Ashraful had actually been a central figure as Sri Lanka used to be his favourite opponent, the only team against whom he has scored more than 1,000 runs. But now he is no longer a part of the Bangladesh set-up, having been embroiled in the BPL corruption controversy.
The focus has shifted to the likes of Mushfiqur, Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal, and over the last twelve months to Nasir Hossain, Mominul Haque, Sohag Gazi and Robiul Islam. Bangladesh have a string of performers, all of whom have done something significant in the last 18 months.
Sri Lanka will rely on the stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, but Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal are the newest Sri Lankan leadership pair that Bangladesh will need to watch. The form of the openers Kaushal Silva and Dimuth Karunaratne is impressive, as well as the threat that is posed by Shaminda Eranga, Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath.
If Bangladesh play to form and keep the questions about their Test status away for enough time, they will give Sri Lanka a run for their money, perhaps for the first time.
(last five matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LWDWD
In the spotlight
Dinesh Chandimal started the Test series against Pakistan solidly, but after that 89 in Abu Dhabi, he managed 36 runs in the next three innings. He is in need of some big scores, and would be looking to recall his form against Bangladesh last year when he scored two centuries.
Marshall Ayub missed opportunities to get to a milestone against New Zealand, but in the first Test, he would do well to capitalise should there be a chance. A talented batsman, he has been batting out of his usual middle-order position because Bangladesh haven't found a batsman to replace Habibul Bashar at No. 3 in the last seven years.
Pitch and conditions
Shakib Al Hasan wants to play on a sporting track at the Shere Bangla National Stadium, but curator Gamini de Silva will probably dish out a slower surface. The bounce can be good in the first session of each day, because of the cooler weather and resultant moisture, but the batsmen would be expected to cash in for the rest of the day.
The major question for Bangladesh is whether they will hand a Test debut to Shamsur Rahman or bring in the more experienced Imrul Kayes to partner Tamim Iqbal. For now, it seems Shamsur is likely to get a look in. There is also some doubt about the third spinner's position, in which case Mahmudullah could replace Abdur Razzak. Yet, there is also the option to play a third seamer, in case the morning conditions on the first day appeal to Mushfiqur Rahim in that way.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Shamsur Rahman/Imrul Kayes, 3 Marshall Ayub, 4 Mominul Haque, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Sohag Gazi, 9 Abdur Razzak/Mahmudullah, 10 Robiul Islam, 11 Rubel Hossain.
For Sri Lanka, there could be a toss-up between Nuwan Pradeep and Dilruwan Perera. Given the conditions, one would think Perera would be persevered with. However, Bangladesh have struggled against a bowler with extra pace, so Pradeep could return to the squad, after being dropped for the final Test against Pakistan.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Kaushal Silva, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera/Nuwan Pradeep, 9 Shaminda Eranga, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Suranga Lakmal.
Stats and trivia
- Robiul Islam is one wicket away from picking up his 200th in first-class cricket.
- Kumar Sangakkara has the most runs and most balls faced against Bangladesh.
- Among the current squads, Rangana Herath's 22 wickets is the most by any bowler in Bangladesh-Sri Lanka contests.
Quotes"Pressure is a good thing for the Bangladesh team. We know that our place in the team is not permanent unless we perform regularly. There are people who are doing well in domestic cricket, and are pushing us."
Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh allrounder on the competition for places in the team.
"It looks really good for batting, but you can't predict it 100%. Generally the Dhaka wicket has been slow as well as good for batting."
Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain on what he expects from the Dhaka pitch.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here