December 26-31, 2008
Start time 09.30am (03.30 GMT)
"We are going to Bangladesh with an open mind." With these words, Mahela Jayawardene signalled that his team would guard against any sort of complacency when facing the weakest Test nation, and with good reason. Leading teams usually expect a cakewalk each time they set foot in Bangladesh but, only a couple of months ago, New Zealand were made to scrap for every run and wicket against a Bangladesh side reeling from the desertions to the ICL. Their slow bowlers thrived on pitches suited to them and the trend is likely to continue against Sri Lanka as well.
The pace of cricket against New Zealand was far from attractive - Bangladesh scored barely above one run an over in the opening session of the first Test - but, for a change, the home side - especially the lower order - showed a willingness to occupy the crease and could stretch the match till the fifth day, when they went down fighting. They havelost seven of eight Tests this year (and drawn one) but have the chance to end on a positive note.
Sri Lanka last played a Test in August and, with next month's tour of Pakistan not yet confirmed and no Tests scheduled for another seven months, they will welcome the opportunity for five-day cricket. Though they are coming off an unconvincing tour of Zimbabwe, the players have been busy enough in the domestic season to satisfy Jayawardene. The top order failed to impress in the tour game in Savar and they will be challenged further in the Tests, especially against the spinners.
They will be without Ajantha Mendis - who twisted his ankle - for the first Test at least but Bangladesh will still have to contend with Muttiah Muralitharan.
The first Test in Mirpur sees the return of the rest day, with no play possible on December 29 because of the parliamentary elections. With an overdose of spin expected, there will be plenty of enquiries and the umpires will be under immense pressure to get their decisions spot on, with no referrals system to lean on.
Form guide (last five Tests, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLWLW
Watch out for
Shakib Al Hasan
In the absence of Abdur Razzak, Shakib will shoulder the bulk of the bowling with Enamul Haque jnr. Shakib's in the form of his life, picking up 21 wickets in the last four Tests and recording the best innings figures by a Bangladesh bowler in Tests (7 for 36). He averages 24.33 with the bat in seven Tests this year and is in the team as a genuine allrounder.
Mendis may not be around for the Tests but Herath, his replacement, is already proving to be quite a handful. His 6 for 16 bundled out a hapless Bangladesh Cricket Board XI for 88 in the practice game at Savar. His appearances for Sri Lanka have been very sporadic but he now has another chance to make a mark.
Sri Lanka are still waiting on the fitness of Kumar Sangakkara, who sustained a cut in his right foot after arriving in Dhaka. He missed the warm-up game in Savar but Prasanna Jayawardene, the regular Test wicketkeeper, found form with 70. If Sangakkara misses out, Chamara Kapugedera could get a promotion.
Sri Lanka (probable) 1 Michael Vandort, 2 Malinda Warnapura, 3 Kumar Sangakkara/Chamara Kapugedera, 4 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 5 Thilan Samaraweera, 6 Tillakaratne Dishan, 7 Prasanna Jayawardene (wk), 8 Chaminda Vaas, 9 Dammika Prasad, 10 Rangana Herath, 11 Muttiah Muraliatharan
Bangladesh made two changes to the squad that toured South Africa, recalling batsman Rajin Saleh, who should give them the grit they need, and Enamul Haque jnr. Haque makes a comeback to the Test squad after the tour of New Zealand this January, following the recent ban on Razzak for chucking. Haque comes off a stint with Maharashtra in the Ranji Trophy in India, picking up seven wickets in four games. "The level of cricket I have played in India recently will really help me because it is almost of international standard," Haque was quoted as saying in the Daily Star. "Preparing for those matches made me mentally strong and I believe I can now handle pressure better."
Bangladesh (probable) 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Junaid Siddique / Raqibul Hasan, 3 Imrul Kayes / Rajin Saleh, 4 Mohammad Ashraful (capt), 5 Mehrab Hossain jnr, 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk) ,8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Enamul Haque jnr, 10 Shahadat Hossain, 11, Mahbubul Alam
Pitch and conditions
Rain washed out three days of the Test against New Zealand in October but the forecast for the next five days is far more encouraging. A slow turner is expected.
Stats and Trivia
Before Shakib's bounty of 21 wickets in the last four Tests, he had just three wickets from six games.
Both teams are facing each other for the first time at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium in Mirpur.
Spinners have taken 28 of the 73 wickets taken at this venue.
"I have bowled well against New Zealand and South Africa but Sri Lanka are a different proposition. I was a part-timer when I faced them last time."
Shakib Al Hasan isn't taking anything for granted against the Sri Lankans.
"Their bowling is really frightening. Most of the teams have either a good pace attack or a good spin attack, but Sri Lanka are good in both departments."
Mohammad Ashraful prepares his batsmen for a stern test.
"We bowled very well and our middle order also batted well, though the top order disappointed me."
Mahela Jayawardene reflects on Sri Lanka's drawn tour match