Reputation at stake for Sri Lanka
March 16-20, 2013
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)
Though the teams were almost even in the bland, high-scoring draw in Galle, they arrive in Colombo with vastly different perspectives on the first Test. Sri Lanka will feel they can take almost nothing from the match apart from meaningless runs, boosted batting averages and tired bowlers. Bangladesh meanwhile have been overjoyed at the application and skill of their batsmen, as well as the strong assertion in Galle, that they are an improving Test side.
It follows that the challenge for each team at the Premadasa Stadium is also dissimilar. The visiting batsmen will seek to ride the momentum from the first Test, and reiterate the mastery over the Sri Lankan attack that saw them to their highest Test total. Their bowling might have been fodder for the hosts, but in constructing big innings in long, secure passages of play, the Bangladesh batsmen showed they are capable of closing the gap between the teams, and will be desperate to prove the draw was as much a result of their own aptitude as the lifeless surface.
Sri Lanka however, will not only be chasing a win, they will be after an emphatic one. A 2-0 victory was what was expected when Bangladesh arrived, and while Angelo Mathews has explained the draw away by labeling the wicket "absolutely a road", the pitch in Colombo seems set to favour bowlers, at least early on, and Mathews will want to reassert Sri Lanka's dominance and avoid an embarrassing scoreline in his first series as captain.
Where Sri Lanka will hope to outgun Bangladesh is, strangely, in the pace ranks. Fast bowling has long been Sri Lanka's worst cricketing suit, but they will expect Nuwan Kulasekara and Shaminda Eranga can pose a greater threat to the Bangladesh batsmen than the spin bowlers can, while the batsmen will not be daunted by Abul Hasan and Shahadat Hossain.
There is peril in that strategy though, as Sri Lanka's top order has been prone to collapse against high-quality fast bowling in the past 12 months. Their tour of Australia was littered by meek capitulations, and even in the home series that preceded that tour, Sri Lanka's batsmen fell prey to the pace and movement of Tim Southee and Trent Boult with alarming regularity. They are now also missing Thilan Samaraweera at No.5, who has in the past been their saviour on such occasions.
The Premadasa pitch may be unlikely to allow another encouraging draw for Bangladesh, but if they can get the best of the seam-bowling conditions and put the hosts under pressure with tight, disciplined spells, they will give themselves a chance of causing an upset.
Form guide(Most recent results first)
Sri Lanka: DLLLL
In the spotlight
Shaminda Eranga has been identified as a promising long-term prospect for Sri Lanka, who may lead the attack in future years. So far however, he has been steady, rather than brilliant, at Test level. He can bowl at around 145 kph, but does not bowl that fast consistently. He is also able to move the ball, but only slightly. He would do well to bolster his swing and improve his consistency under Chaminda Vaas, who specialised in both, and a good outing on a helpful pitch could provide a crucial confidence boost.
Fans who have followed Mohammad Ashraful's career in all its fits and frustrations will have been staggered at the amount of care and responsibility he displayed during his 190 in Galle. There was barely a stroke in that knock that did not seem well-considered, while the pace of the innings was also entirely appropriate to the match situation. Mushfiqur Rahim heaped praise on him at the end of the match for helping him through his own innings, and in Colombo, Ashraful will be keen to show his prudent new avatar was not a one-match wonder.
Ajantha Mendis is in danger of being dropped, and though the young offspinner Tharindu Kaushal is in the team as spin-bowling cover, Mendis' place will more likely go to one of the fast bowlers, if the track is as lively as it is expected to be. Chanaka Welegedara would ordinarily be the first seam bowler picked in the attack, but a string of injuries in the past year have left him struggling for rhythm. Suranga Lakmal is the other option for the hosts.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1. Tillakaratne Dilshan, 2. Dimuth Karunaratne, 3. Kumar Sangakkara, 4. Lahiru Thirimanne, 5. Angelo Mathews (capt), 6. Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 7. Kithuruwan Vithanage, 8. Nuwan Kulasekara, 9. Rangana Herath, 10. Shaminda Eranga, 11. Chanaka Welegedara/Suranga Lakmal
A fully fit Tamim Iqbal is expected to return for the visitors, and Anamul Haque most likely to make make way for the left-hander. Since the Premadasa pitch is expected to favour the seamers, Robiul Islam could come in as the extra seamer. Left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak could, however, be included because he offers control. Rubel Hossain has also been declared fit, and is likely to replace Shahadat Hossain.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Jahurul Islam, 3 Mohammad Ashraful, 4 Mominul Haque, 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Sohag Gazi, 9 Abul Hasan, 10 Abdur Razzak/Robiul Islam, 11 Rubel Hossain
Stats and trivia
- After two matches, fast bowler Abul Hasan has a batting average of 136 and a bowling average of 270.
- Kumar Sangakkara has scored 669 runs in his last four innings against Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh have never drawn a Test series
Quotes"You have to have competition in the team, whether for the youngsters or the seniors. Among the batsmen it has been very good."
Angelo Mathews on how maiden hundreds for Dinesh Chandimal and Lahiru Thirimanne may have impacted Sri Lanka's young batting group .
"The biggest challenge for us is to follow up a drawn Test match with another very good performance. But I am confident we can correct the small mistakes we made in the field in Galle."
Mushfiqur Rahim hopes for improvement even after an encouraging outing
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here