Mustafizur's novelty buoys Mushfiqur
Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim has said that seamer Mustafizur Rahman, who is returning to Test cricket after more than a year, will be the key for his bowling attack in Galle. That almost all of Sri Lanka's batsmen have not faced him before only amplifies the threat posed by Mustafizur. Among Sri Lanka's 15-man squad, only Dinesh Chandimal has faced Mustafizur before.
Chandimal scored five runs in six balls, including an edged four, against Mustafizur during last year's Asia Cup T20 in Mirpur. Mustafizur finished with figures of 1 for 19 in his only international against Sri Lanka. Then in the practice match between Sri Lanka Cricket President's XI and the Bangladeshis, Chandimal hit form and played Mustafizur with more conviction.
This will be Mustafizur's first Test since July 2015, when he played both games against South Africa at home. He has been dogged by injuries since then, only playing some limited-overs matches in New Zealand before being dropped for the one-off Test against India in Hyderabad last month. This will also be the first time both Mustafizur and Mehedi Hasan are available to play in the same Test.
"Having them in the bowling attack is a huge advantage," Mushfiqur said. "We have Mustafizur now with Shakib and Mehedi who have done well together already. The type of bowler he is, Mustafizur will make them [Sri Lanka] work hard on this wicket. Many of them are going to play him for the first time, which we have seen is difficult for any batsman. We also have Taskin Ahmed, but we have to make sure to grab the opportunities that come our way."
Bangladesh spilled several chances in New Zealand and Hyderabad, and Mushfiqur called for improvement on the fielding front.
"Fielding is a very important part," he said. "We don't want to provide batsmen with one or two lives. We are focusing harder this time, to do better than the last two series. We are also trying to adjust to the heat, so that we are well prepared for the game."
Mushfiqur has been asked to give up the wicketkeeping gloves, and concentrating on one discipline could benefit him, but he termed it a "different feeling".
"The heat here is such that it doesn't matter if you're keeping or fielding. It is a tough job," he said. "I have said it repeatedly that while keeping I understood the wicket better, which helped me as a batsman.
"It will be a different feeling. I have to do what I am told to do for the team. I am happy, and I will try to contribute as much as possible as a top-order batsman."
Mushfiqur hoped that the batting unit, which has been guilty of throwing away starts in Bangladesh's last three Tests, will use the preparation from the last two weeks to good effect in Galle.
"You have to play big innings in Tests, whether you are in the top or middle order," Mushfiqur said. "Our batsmen are trying hard, but sometimes they haven't been able to do it. Over the last two weeks they have put in a lot of effort, and I hope it is reflected on our performance in the game."
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84