Bangladesh prepare to enter the lion's den
While the rest of the world focuses on The Oval and the final day of a riveting Ashes contest in South London, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will begin a two-Test series that promises to be one-sided, swift and unmemorable. Bangladesh - battling injuries to key bowlers, internal discord within their ranks and bruised confidence after the 3-0 ODI whitewash - should be brushed aside easily by a full-strength Sri Lanka team.
Sri Lanka, for the second Test series in a row, fear complacency more than the potency of their opponents. Once again, they have everything to lose and very little to gain. Their preparation has focused on their own game, particularly their top-order batting which faltered during a two-Test series against West Indies in July.
"We cannot afford to take Bangladesh lightly," said Mahela Jayawardene. "We are concentrating on the basics and improving our game. We want to build big partnerships and ensure that we put together a large first-innings score in both games."
Sri Lanka's batsman should be licking their lips. The West Indies brought with them a fiery trio of pacemen and ruffled the Sri Lankans on occasions, but Bangladesh have been shorn of their two most experienced fast bowlers - Mashrafe Mortaza (back injury) and Tapash Baisya (ankle injury) - and will now be forced to blood two youngsters.
Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh's ever-optimistic coach, refuses to be downbeat ahead of the game. "The loss of Mashrafe and Tapash is a blow and we will now have a very inexperienced pace attack, but the youngsters now have a chance to shine."
Syed Rasel, a steady left-arm medium-pacer, is likely to make his debut with either Shahdat Hossain, a pace bowler who was plundered for 101 runs in 12 overs on debut against England earlier this year, or Talha Jubair, who has been whisked over from Dhaka to bolster the bowling attack.
The responsibility for taking wickets will therefore fall on the shoulders of the two left-arm spinners - bad boy Mohammad Rafique, who has been wrapped on the knuckles this week after an outburst on the training field, and Emanul Haque jnr. On a Premadasa International pitch that traditionally favours the slower bowlers, they can look forward to a heavy workload.
But even greater responsibility falls upon the shoulders of their batsmen, who have overcome the twin-threat posed by Chaminda Vaas and Muttiah Muralitharan, both of whom are at the top of their form and will be eager to reap cheap wickets. At least Habibul Bashar, the skipper, has returned from a quick trip home to see his ailing mother.
"We know their attack revolves around Vaasy and Murali and will have to play them well because its vital that we put good runs on the board," said Whatmore. "I was, though, encouraged by the way we played them at times during the ODI series. We are being honest, as it is going to be tough, but we'll be taking it session by session and will be trying to make life as hard as possible for the Sri Lankans."
Sri Lanka must decide whether to play six batsmen and an allrounder or a fifth specialist bowler. Both Russel Arnold and Shantha Kalavitigoda are in the squad and could bat at No.7. But with Sanath Jayasuriya, who will become the first Sri Lankan to pay 100 Tests in the second game, possibly not available for a full stint with the ball they may be inclined to opt for Gayan Wijekoon, the left-arm seamer, or even the added firepower of Dilhara Fernando.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Marvan Atapattu (capt), 2 Sanath Jayasuriya, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Mahela Jayawardene, 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 7 Chaminda Vaas, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Muttiah Muralitharan, 10 Dilhara Fernando, 11 Lasith Malinga
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Javed Omar, 2 Nafees Iqbal, 3 Habibul Bashar (capt), 4 Mohammad Ashraful, 5 Aftab Ahmed, 6 Shariar Nafees, 7 Khaled Mashud (wk), 8 Mohammad Rafique, 9 Enamul Haque jnr, 10 Syed Rasel, 11 Shahadat Hossain
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent