Insipid ODI form a worry for Sri Lanka
March 25, 2017
Start time 1430 local (0900 GMT)
Bangladesh have exulted, the Sri Lanka team have been verbally flagellated, and after Sunday's result, a tour that had been flying under the radar on the island has suddenly sparked widespread interest.
While Bangladesh's second major Test victory in the space of a few months has been interpreted as a another sign of the team's arrival at the top level, Sri Lanka's loss has split opinion at home. Some have suggested Sri Lankan cricket has entered a death spiral; others have argued that while there is cause for significant concern, there is hope yet. Whatever the case, the limited-overs series have become doubly important for Sri Lanka now. If they lose here as well, there may not be many rushing to defend this team.
What will worry Sri Lanka is that ODIs have recently been Bangladesh's strongest format. They did lose to England at home last year, but have beaten India, Pakistan and South Africa in bilateral series in 2015.
Sri Lanka meanwhile, can probably reflect that ODIs have been their weakest suit. Save for series against West Indies, Ireland and Zimbabwe - all of whom have failed to qualify for this year's Champions Trophy - Sri Lanka have lost bilateral series against England, Australia, South Africa, Pakistan and New Zealand (twice) since the start of 2015.
The hosts are still without their two best limited-overs players - Angelo Mathews remains injured, and Lasith Malinga is also unavailable, thanks to a slow recovery from a major ankle injury.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, will not only be buoyed by their Test win, they are also boosted by the arrival of their charismatic limited-overs captain: Mashrafe Mortaza.
Sri Lanka LLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Upul Tharanga's captaincy has yielded mixed results - a 0-5 thrashing in ODIs in South Africa, to go with a 2-1 win in the T20 series in Australia - but his own form has been largely encouraging. In addition to having scored heavily in the Galle Test, Tharanga had also struck a 90-ball 119 in an ODI in Cape Town last month. At 32, Tharanga is intent on retaining his place in the team until he retires, but he still needs to score more consistently to convince the many doubters.
Mustafizur Rahman's fourth day spell at the P Sara may have broken open the match for Bangladesh, but it didn't feature many trademark cutters. Switching now to the format in which he made his name, Mustafizur has plenty of form behind him - having also taken two wickets in each of his ODI outings in New Zealand, in December. On Asian tracks better suited to his bowling, there is a chance the series is defined by how well Sri Lanka's batsmen defuse his bowling.
With Kusal Perera out of the first two ODIs, left-arm spinning allrounder Milinda Siriwardana has been named in the squad for the Dambulla matches. Also returning to the fray are Danushka Gunathilaka - who had missed the South Africa series - and Thisara Perera, who had been dropped. Niroshan Dickwella is unavailable for this match, however, thanks to the suspension he picked up in Australia. Tharanga and Gunathilaka are likely to open together.*
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Upul Tharanga (capt.), 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (wk), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Sachith Pathirana, 8. Thisara Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Vikum Sanjaya, 11 Lakshan Sandakan
Bangladesh could make at least two changes to the XI from their last ODI, in New Zealand. Mushfiqur Rahim will return to the line-up as wicketkeeper in place of Nurul Hasan while Tanbir Hayder isn't in the current squad. Mehedi Hasan's late call-up suggests he could be handed an ODI debut. Sunzamul Islam may also earn an ODI cap if they decide to play only two seamers.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mehedi Hasan, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 10 Taskin Ahmed/Sunzamul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Pitch and conditions
The Dambulla track has generally been slow, with 300 having been breached only twice there. The weather is expected to be fine.
Stats and trivia
- Bangladesh have won only four ODIs and lost 33 against Sri Lanka. One of those wins and 14 losses have come in Sri Lanka.
- Mustafizur has failed to get two wickets only twice in his 11 ODIs so far. He has 30 wickets at an average of 13.83 in the format.
- Sri Lanka lost their last home series 1-4 to Australia.
"We started well in New Zealand but couldn't finish off those games. So every game becomes important, not just at the start or end of a series."
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza
"After the Test series, we had four training sessions, and in all those four sessions, we dedicated lot of time for fielding. I think we are doing quite okay in practices when it comes to fielding, but when we go into thee middle, we fail to concentrate."
Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga on Sri Lanka's long-standing fielding woes
*This article originally had Dickwella among Sri Lanka's possible XI. He is, however, suspended for this match.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando