SL, Bangladesh hunt for bragging rights
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Start time 1900 local (1330 GMT)
Bilateral T20Is can become meaningless when fitted towards the end of tours. Teams use these games to prepare for future endeavours and to give the players who had been confined to the bench some game time. As a result, not many of these matches are memorable. But the series between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh has gained importance after stalemates in both the Tests and ODIs.
The hosts would consider themselves favourites. They beat both South Africa and Australia away from home and have been bolstered by the return of Lasith Malinga. Additionally, the competition at the top of the order also bodes well for them. They have four openers to choose from: Kusal Perera, who has recovered from a hamstring strain, captain Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka and Dilshan Munaweera.
Bangladesh would regard the tour as a lost opportunity if they end up not winning any trophies. They struggled in New Zealand and their count of successive T20I losses reached seven, but in subcontinent conditions, they pose a stronger threat.
There is very little difference between their ODI and T20I batting line-ups, and this continuity has helped the players feel more secure. On the bowling front, captain Mashrafe Mortaza and Taskin Ahmed have been among the wickets recently, while Mehedi Hasan has taken to limited-overs cricket as well as he did to Tests.
Sri Lanka LWWWW (completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Asela Gunaratnewas the most talked-about batsman during Sri Lanka's last T20I series, and was so with good reason. Having struck back-to-back fifties to help beat Australia in their own backyard, the focus will be on him to repeat the feat at home.
Kusal has passed his fitness test, and as such, is available for this match. But Sri Lanka were reluctant to say where he would bat, or if he would slot back into the XI. They might have to choose between fast bowlers Vikum Sanjaya and Nuwan Kulasekara. Apart from that, most of the line-up will be similar to the one that played against Australia in February. Left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan, who missed the latter part of the ODI series against Bangladesh, is expected to regain his T20 place.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Dilshan Munaweera, 3 Upul Tharanga (capt), 4 Chamara Kapugedera, 5 Asela Gunaratne, 6 Kusal Perera/ Milinda Siriwardana, 7 Seekkuge Prasanna, 8 Thisara Perera, 9 Lakshan Sandakan, 10 Vikum Sanjaya/ Nuwan Kulasekara 11 Lasith Malinga
Bangladesh are unlikely to tinker with their batting line-up, but they might perhaps mull over Mohammad Saifuddin. The uncapped fast-bowling allrounder could be used to give one of the frontline quicks a break. Left-arm spinner Sunzamul Islam is another option available to the visitors.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mosaddek Hossain, 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mehedi Hasan, 9 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt.), 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Taskin Ahmed
Pitch and conditions
An unusually hard surface might afford some help to the fast bowlers early on. The average score batting first in the last five T20Is at the R Premadasa Stadium is 150. Overall, teams that have batted first have won 14 out of 23 completed matches at this venue. There is a slight chance of rain in the evening.
Stats and trivia
- The only two batsmen, out of both squads, to have more than 1,000 T20I runs are Tamim Iqbal (1202) and Shakib Al Hasan (1159).
- Sri Lanka have won just one T20I at the Premadasa in 11 outings. They have better records in Pallekelle - seven wins out of 11 games - and Hambantota - three wins out of six games.
- Sri Lanka is one of five countries where Bangladesh have never won a T20I.
- Sabbir has the most Player-of-the-Match awards (3) for Bangladesh in T20Is.
"We've got to be consistent in getting those runs as well, and that has to carry over to the T20 format. In Australia we've chased 170-odd as well. Even here, if we can get and chase 180 - scores like that - that would be the best thing."
Sri Lanka captain Upul Tharanga
"When we played the decider against England in Chittagong [last October], we lost despite having a good record there. So these things don't really matter much."
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza on Sri Lanka's poor record at R Premadasa Stadium
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84