Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong January 2, 2009

Bangladesh prepare for Mendis threat

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Ajantha Mendis was a late inclusion to the Test squad after recovering from an ankle injury © AFP
 

Match facts


January 3-7, 2009
Start time 09.30am (03.30 GMT)

Big Picture

Bangladesh's brave attempt at pulling off a record-breaking chase of 521 in Mirpur rounded off one of the most memorable months of Test cricket in recent memory. It also dispelled the notion that anything over 450 is unattainable in the fourth innings, even if it involves the weakest Test nation. Though the result didn't go their way, Bangladesh's effort has sparked some life and anticipation into the short series, which Sri Lanka were overwhelming favourites to sweep.

Now, though, Bangladesh find the bar raised much higher. The talking point in Chittagong has been the return of Ajantha Mendis to the Sri Lankan squad from an ankle injury. Should he play, the home side will find it that much harder to square the series. Mendis left the Indians clueless in the home series last year and, if he has his way on a slow turner here, Bangladesh could suffer equally. The two-day gap between Tests wouldn't have given Bangladesh enough time to prepare for Mendis. They may have handled Muttiah Muralitharan creditably on a fifth day pitch in Mirpur but Mendis, as recent history will tell you, is a different proposition.

Bangladesh's failure in the first innings in Mirpur - falling for 178 - proved decisive to the result and Mohammad Ashraful wasn't afraid to point that out. "We need to bat at least four sessions in the first innings," Ashraful said. "If we do that then we'll have a decent score on the board. That's the prerequisite for us getting a positive result in Test matches."

The Chittagong Test marks a personal milestone for Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene who plays his 100th Test. Since his debut in 1997, Jayawardene has scored 7926 runs at 52.84 and is Sri Lanka's leading run-scorer in Tests. He is also 74 away from the 8000-run mark.

"I can't say that I'm not emotional," Jayawardene said. "I'm not thinking about the personal milestone. It has been an honour to play for Sri lanka and I have said this before that I never expected to play 100 Test matches when I started off."

Form guide (last five Tests, most recent first)

Sri Lanka WWLWL
Bangladesh LLLDL

Watch out for

Mohammad Ashraful:
Bangladesh's captain was in dire need of runs in Mirpur to lift not only his sagging form but the hopes of his team and he didn't disappoint. He scored a face-saving century but his dismissal, for 101, was one of the most important breakthroughs of the Test. He shed extravagance for patience, negated the effect of Murali and, for a change, seemed intent on building an innings. Five hundreds in 47 Tests highlights his inconsistent career but having made a start, he'll be looking to carry on. What remains to be seen is how much inspiration he - let alone the rest of the team - takes from his own effort.

The carrom ball from Ajantha Mendis, which he releases with an unusual snap of his fingers. His variations have flummoxed even the most experienced players of spin. India's Gautam Gambhir said recently that the trick is to read the spin off his hand rather than wait for it to pitch. Bangladesh haven't been afraid to charge the spinners so the battle with Mendis should make for compelling viewing.

Team news

With Mendis in the frame, the axe will most certainly fall on Rangana Herath, who managed just one wicket in 38 overs in Mirpur. Jayawardene said a final decision would be taken after the practice session.

Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Michael Vandort, 2 Malinda Warnapura, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dishan, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Chaminda Vaas, 9 Dammika Prasad, 10 Ajantha Mendis, 11 Muttiah Muraliatharan

Bangladesh have retained the same twelve from the first game, though Ashraful hinted at bringing in an extra spinner for a seamer. He felt Enamul Haque jnr, the left-armer, could come in to the equation at the expense of Mahbubul Alam, who picked up only one wicket in Mirpur.

Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Junaid Siddique, 4 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 5 Raqibul Hasan, 6 Mehrab Hossain jnr, 7 Shakib Al Hasan, 8 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk) ,9 Mashrafe Mortaza, 10 Enamul Haque jnr/Mahbubul Alam, 11 Shahadat Hossain

Pitch and conditions

The surface at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium is similar to the one used for the Test against New Zealand, dry and devoid of grass. The Mirpur track held firm for all five days and gave some assistance to the seamers. However, the spinners from both sides are likely to do the bulk of the bowling here. This venue was where Shakib Al Hasan picked up 7 for 36 against New Zealand, the best innings figures by a Bangladesh bowler in Tests.

Stats and Trivia

  • Ashraful has never managed to score back-to-back centuries or half-centuries. In fact, the highest he has ever scored after scoring a hundred or a fifty, is 26.

  • Having scored four of his five hundreds against Sri Lanka, his average against them stands at 42.42 as opposed to his career average of 23.82.

  • Since scoring an exact 400 in their debut Test in 2000, Bangladesh have passed the 400-mark on just three occasions since then in the first innings. The previous instance was in 2005.

Quotes

"We have seen him bowling against India on television. We also have footages but it is important not to think of him or Muralitharan too much and just try to play ball by ball. He has done very well in recent times and has taken heaps of wickets but our focus will be on playing each ball on its merit because this is a Test match."
Mohammad Ashraful on Bangladesh's plans for Mendis.

"Last year we beat India in a Test series, drew England and beat the West Indies in the West Indies for the first time in our history. This is a new year and we have a lot of cricket in front of us." Mahela Jayawardene wants to start 2009 on a better note.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo