Mashrafe targets greater away success
Bangladesh have recently won two Tests against teams they had never previously beaten, made the knockouts of the World Cup in 2015, won six of their seven most-recent home ODI series, and have unearthed match-winning young bowlers, so it is time to take aim at the next frontier, captain Mashrafe Mortaza has said.
His goal: to consistently defeat oppositions in their own conditions. Bangladesh have taken a step towards that target in Sri Lanka, winning the first ODI by 90 runs. A rained-out second match has since ensured they cannot lose the series, but they still need to win the third ODI to take the series outright.
"When other teams come to Bangladesh we play well - this is the reality," Mashrafe said. "We will become a truly good team only when we also start winning maximum matches away. I said earlier, before the New Zealand series, that a real test is starting for us - that most of the matches we have won, we have won at home. Now it is about away matches.
"In New Zealand the results weren't in our favour but we were very close in a lot of the matches. But here, we won a Test match and an ODI. So, the progress will not happen all at once. In away matches, for example, we had no clue about the Dambulla wicket - it was supposedly new. We played here a long time ago. So it is difficult to adjust to these things; it will change slowly."
In order to claim the series, Bangladesh will aim to shackle Sri Lanka's top order a little better than they had managed on Tuesday. In that match, Sri Lanka rode a Kusal Mendis hundred to 311 - a total which would have been a challenge for the visitors given the problems chasing sides have historically faced in the island. Nevertheless, Mashrafe was confident Bangladesh could have hunted down that total, but in any case said a little more discipline with the ball may be required in this match.
"If you see the last match, they scored 300," Mashrafe said. "The wicket was very good, but maybe we have to try to reduce 20-25 runs from that. Where they can score 300, we have to keep it to 280. So if we can do something like that the task will become easier for us.
"If you look at the history at the SSC, then it says that 270-290 is the average score, which means that it can also go over 300. So I think we have to be mentally prepared for that and let's see what happens. If we can keep it below 300 it will be easier for the batsmen."
Mashrafe said the toss was important, but also outlined the significance of aggression and body language.
"It is very difficult to be play with too much caution, because you cannot play your best that way," he said. "And if you want to win a game of cricket, you can't do it being defensive. I think being relaxed is very important, and thankfully the team has won two matches on the trot. I will always want that we play the aggressive game. In sports body language also counts."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando