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The Preview by Andrew Fernando and Mohammad Isam
March 7, 2013
Match factsMarch 8-12, Galle
Big PictureA Test match in Galle against Bangladesh might usually comprise a straightforward challenge for Sri Lanka, but with the contracts crisis less than a week behind them and a fresh-faced top order set to take guard, the potential for an upset has shot up. Sri Lanka's selectors have approached the tour as an opportunity to blood young players, tilting the squad balance heavily towards raw talent, and if an improving Bangladesh side score a shock victory, Angelo Mathews' Test captaincy will have had as poor a start as he could have imagined.
On paper, Sri Lanka are by some distance the favourites in Galle - a venue from which they have customarily taken a 1-0 lead into the remainder of the series, having lost only three times in 21 matches there. The pitch, which usually takes turn from day one, shapes as a paradise for all spinners, but even men as gifted as Saeed Ajmal and Graeme Swann have not managed to imitate the success Sri Lanka's slow bowlers achieve there as a matter of routine.
It will help too for Sri Lanka that several batsmen in the likely top seven have scored heavily in first-class engagements since the tour of Australia. Angelo Mathews and Tillakaratne Dilshan both made big hundreds in their last match, while Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne have also strung together solid scores in the past few weeks. Either Jeevan Mendis or Kithuruwan Vithanage are likely to debut, and both men are also coming off big scores - in Vithanage's case, against the very attack the visitors will probably field in the first Test.
Bangladesh are also with several key players, but the ones on tour are a different breed than the cricketers who have visited Sri Lanka in the last four full tours. Bangladesh now gives their youngsters time on the domestic circuit before drafting them into the senior side. Anamul Haque and Mominul Haque are the latest talents to roll out of age-group and domestic cricket, with Jahurul Islam and Marshall Ayub being picked on their recent form.
Captain Mushfiqur Rahim and Tamim Iqbal will have to do most of the running, but the likes of Mahmudullah and Nasir Hossain have soaked up pressure in the recent past. Bangladesh's bowling attack however is thin, and the gap left by the injured Shakib Al Hasan will take some filling. Someone has to fill his role as the wicket-taker and then run-controller, but none of these bowlers have done so on the big stage for an extended period.
Sri Lanka's off field problems may have closed the gap between the teams somewhat, at least psychologically, but those who have seen Bangladesh capitulate in a matter of overs in Test cricket would still be wary of a one-sided contest. But this is a young team with several cricketers who seek the limelight; their desire would have to be translated on to the field for this to be a good Test match.
Form guideSri Lanka: LLLLW (Completed matches, most recent first)
Players to watchAngelo Mathews was by no means an automatic choice for Test captain, despite having been groomed for the role for the better part of two years, and he has plenty to prove in this Test and the series. He has a passable average of 39.71 for a No.6, but he's made only one hundred in 50 innings, and his bowling figures in the longest format are far worse than Dilshan's, who himself would not be termed an allrounder. Mathews has also rarely been seen offering tactical counsel for past captains, and in addition to his ability to re-energise the side after the weekend's disruptive events, his strategic nous will also be on trial.
Sohag Gazi is going to be Mushfiqur Rahim's go-to bowler in spinning conditions, particularly in Shakib's absence. The offspinner has greatly improved, going from playing first-class cricket for Barisal Division to becoming the leading spinner in his first away Test. A self-made cricketer, Gazi's breed of offspin isn't different from the orthodox lot but since making the senior team earlier this season, he has added a few more variations to his armoury.
Team newsWith Mahela Jayawardene out through injury and Thilan Samaraweera not picked - and subsequently retired - Sri Lanka will have to pick at least four batsmen with fewer than ten Tests' experience, as it is unlikely they will play five bowlers. Kithuruwan Vithanage, who scored an unbeaten 168 in the tour match could be in line for a debut, but Jeevan Mendis has an equally good chance, as he can provide an extra bowling option.
The second spinner's spot is also up for grabs, and uncapped 19-year-old Tharindu Kaushal may also be looking at a debut, though he will have to fight off Ajantha Mendis, who is the more likely candidate. With so much inexperience elsewhere, Sri Lanka may choose the more seasoned hand of Nuwan Kulasekara over Shaminda Eranga.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kumar Sangakkara, 4 Lahiru Thirimanne, 5 Kithuruwan Vithanage, 6 Angelo Mathews (capt), 7 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 8 Nuwan Kulasekara/Shaminda Eranga 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Ajantha Mendis/Tharindu Kaushal, 11 Chanaka Welegedara
To fill the four vacant slots in the batting line-up, Bangladesh are likely to give Mominul a Test debut at No. 6. Mohammad Ashraful will come in too, but there is still uncertainty about Jahurul Islam and Anamul Haque to open with Tamim Iqbal, who could play through pain in his right hand. Rubel Hossain has pain in his back so he too could be replaced by Shahadat Hossain. Or as a safety-first option, they could go with Elias Sunny, making it a completely spin-based attack.
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Jahurul Islam/Anamul Haque, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mominul Haque, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Sohag Gazi, 9 Elias Sunny, 10 Abul Hasan, 11 Rubel Hossain/Shahadat Hossain
Stats and trivia
Quotes"I think there is no added pressure as such. We have played without Shakib for parts of the series against West Indies, so nothing much has changed. I think a bit of pressure can be a good thing, and I am confident we, as a team, can handle it."
"Mahela and Thilan are two of our most experience players, so we will miss them. Bangladesh is a very good team, and they've played well in the recent past, so this is an opportunity for all of us to [prove ourselves and] come through with a win. I'm sure we can be successful."
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews is not taking Bangladesh lightly, but is confident his side will prosper
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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