Bangladesh have picked six specialist spinners in their 16-man squad. It tells you what you need to know about the Chittagong pitch for the first Test against Sri Lanka. Spin is set to dominate proceedings as the two sides renew a growing rivalry following years of one-sided Tests.
In the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, Bangladesh have gone as far as picking Nayeem Hasan from their Under-19 team in New Zealand, and recalling 35-year-old Abdur Razzak, who last played a Test in 2014. They have also picked the uncapped Sunzamul Islam and Tanbir Hayder in a desperate bid to beef up their spin attack.
Sri Lanka will be more confident, having bounced back strongly to claim the tri-series title. They will also be buoyed by Dinesh Chandimal’s recent form: he made 366 runs in three Tests in India. Dhananjaya de Silva, meanwhile, will look to build on his fighting, unbeaten 119 in the Delhi Test.
Akila Dananjaya, who was found a second wind in international cricket, could make his Test debut in Chittagong. The major threat for Bangladesh, however, is Rangana Herath, who has taken 41 wickets against the hosts at an average of 22.63.
How the Bangladesh batsmen handle him will go a long way in deciding this series. Mushfiqur Rahim, perhaps, has handled Herath the best although he has got out to him three times in 11 innings. Mahmudullah, the stand-in captain, has struggled against Herath: he has been dismissed four times in five innings, having scored just five runs against Herath in 33 balls.
But the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque and Mosaddek Hossain can be expected to apply themselves and occupy the crease for longer periods. On the bowling front, Mustafizur Rahman and Mehidy Hasan need to fire in the absence of Shakib.
Sri Lanka: DLDWW
In the spotlight
Mushfiqur Rahim will be playing his first Test after losing the captaincy in December. There is also the possibility of the team management playing Liton Das as the wicketkeeper and Mushfiqur as a specialist batsman. Mushfiqur hasn’t played a Test without being a wicketkeeper and/or captain since 2006.
Since suffering a glute injury, after making his third century in the Delhi Test in December, Dhananjaya de Silva has played only one first-class game. Can he prove his fitness and keep up his fine form in Bangladesh?
With Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman and Subashis Roy left out from the squad, Bangladesh need to make three changes. Tamim Iqbal and Mosaddek Hossain are set to slot into the batting line-up, but the team management’s biggest headache will be to pick three spinners out of six.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Liton Das (wk), 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Nayeem Hasan/Abdur Razzak, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Sri Lanka have to make at least two changes from their last Test. With Angelo Mathews sidelined with a hamstring injury and Sadeera Samarawickrama dropped, Kusal Mendis and Rangana Herath are set to return. There may be a toss-up between Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya with the latter’s impressive performance in the ODI tri-series likely to fetch him a Test debut.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne 2 Dhananjaya de Silva, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Roshen Silva, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dilruwan Perera, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lakshan Sandakan/Akila Dananjaya, 11 Lahiru Gamage
Pitch and conditions
The presence of six specialist spinners in Bangladesh’s squad suggests what Zahid Reza, the Chittagong curator, will dish out. Chandimal also reckoned that the pitch will assist spin. The forecast is clear for all five days.
Stats and trivia
Tamim Iqbal is 114 runs away from becoming the first Bangladesh batsman to reach 4000 Test runs.
Suranga Lakmal is four wickets away from becoming the fourth Sri Lankan fast bowler to 100 Test wickets. He will join Chaminda Vaas (355), Lasith Malinga (101) and Dilhara Fernando (100).
“The tri-series is over. Now we are playing a different format and situation. We have to play session by session in a Test match. Let’s not think about the ODIs.”
Bangladesh’s stand-in captain Mahmudullah
“[Rangana Herath] is a wily old fox. He can do what he wants to do. He is a big asset in our team. We hope he is going to do his basics right. It will be challenging for Bangladesh.”
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal