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Feature

Bangladesh vs Ireland: batting-friendly Sylhet could throw up even contests

Lack of experience in the subcontinent could hurt Ireland against Bangladesh, who have just swept England 3-0 in a T20I series at home

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
17-Mar-2023
Bangladesh and Ireland are scheduled to play a lot of cricket against each other over the next few years  •  ICC via Getty

Bangladesh and Ireland are scheduled to play a lot of cricket against each other over the next few years  •  ICC via Getty

Bangladesh and Ireland are facing off in a bilateral ODI series in Bangladesh after 15 years. Even otherwise, it's one of the rare bilateral combinations in ODIs. They play their home cricket in vastly different conditions, which suggests that Ireland could struggle in Sylhet. They are, however, a feisty unit, so on the cusp of a pretty long tour of the subcontinent, Ireland would back themselves to settle in quickly and pull off some positive results. Here are some talking points ahead of their three-ODI tour of Bangladesh, which will start the journey off.
Bangladesh on a high
Bangladesh's T20I series win over England was a big result. It wasn't the best England side, but they are the defending T20 world champions, and it was a rare positive for Bangladesh in the format. The team is now expected to use this turnaround into better ODI form. They lost the ODIs 2-1 to England, and it was just their first ODI series loss at home in seven years; their last loss was also to England, in 2016.
Bangladesh have a strong ODI presence at home. They have shown series after series that they are adept at both batting first and bowling first against top opposition. India found out in December last year that Bangladesh can also hit back from the most difficult positions. Bangladesh will also have the advantage of a strong pace-bowling attack, which has a match-winning role as compared to a few years ago. It is a welcome addition to their already strong spin attack.
Lack of experience in subcontinent could hurt Ireland
Ireland have played just the two ODI series in the last nine months - they lost 3-0 to New Zealand at home in July last year and drew 1-1 in Zimbabwe in January this year. Bangladesh played 12 ODIs in this time, completing their World Cup qualification in the process.
Ireland's experience in the subcontinent, too, isn't great, though players like Paul Stirling, George Dockrell and captain Andrew Balbirnie have played in Asia a fair bit and know what to expect.
Many of them, however, will carry happy memories of tours with Ireland Wolves in 2017 and 2021. Particularly Stephen Doheny, Lorcan Tucker and Harry Tector, who were the main run-getters on the 2021 tour. A handful of them also played in the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016. Curtis Campher and Balbirnie played a few BPL matches this year, too. All that experience will be immensely valuable.
How will the Sylhet pitch play?
Sylhet has been one of the best batting pitches in the country, but Bangladesh coach Chandika Hathurusingha feels fast bowlers will get some bounce and carry this time. That is something that the Ireland bowlers will also enjoy.
Bangladesh haven't played a lot at this venue. Sylhet has hosted four ODIs, the last of which was in 2020. In the last series played here, Bangladesh reached 300-plus scores in all three games against Zimbabwe and won each time.
It is understood that Sylhet was chosen as the venue for this entire ODI series to give the Bangladesh players a feel of conditions in India, looking ahead to the World Cup this year. Bangladesh generally play most of their ODIs in Dhaka, and some in Chattogram. But there is a strong belief within the playing group that most pitches in India wouldn't be like Dhaka, so playing more white-ball cricket in Chattogram and Sylhet could help them get used to scoring and defending big scores.
Tamim and Mehidy might not be fit
Bangladesh have couple of concerns. Captain Tamim Iqbal is down with a viral infection; he has had a fever for the last few days. Tamim batted and fielded on Friday, which may be an indication that he is recovering well. Mehidy Hasan Miraz is another worry - he was struck in the eye by a football during a warm-up session.
Mehidy was taken to a local hospital for a check-up, and was reportedly resting in his hotel room on Friday afternoon. Bangladesh have already replaced newcomer Zakir Hasan (left thumb injury) with Rony Talukdar, another newcomer in the ODI side.
As for Ireland, they are without Josh Little and Barry McCarthy in the ODI side, with Fionn Hand and Thomas Mayes coming in as replacements.
Bangladesh vs Ireland - start of a new rivalry?
Ireland are on their first full tour at the highest level, playing ODIs, T20Is and a Test in Bangladesh. The reciprocal tour is in May, when Ireland will host Bangladesh in Chelmsford in England for three ODIs in the ICC Super League.
The 2023-27 future tours programme has even more matches between the two teams, in November 2025 and in August 2026.
So could this be the start of a new rivalry? That will depend to a large extent on how this ODI series pans out. If it is one-sided, it will be quickly forgotten. But both sides are packed with talented players, who can turn the course of a one-day match quickly. If that means tight, competitive games, it could grab eyeballs.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84