Bangladesh have rocked this tournament. Now Tigers – capital T – in home ODIs, they have not just won their first three matches, they have flexed new muscles, deployed fresh skills, and preyed ruthlessly on their oppositions, taking a bonus point from each game. Occasionally, the batting is a little wobbly. So what? Mashrafe Mortaza and co. will scythe through your top order anyway. Occasionally, a Bangladesh bowler goes for runs. No big deal. Nothing compared to what Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan will do to the opposition attack.
One or two players in the Sri Lanka side – Upul Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal perhaps – will remember when they were the team that romped through games against lower-ranked opposition. As recently as 2014, Bangladesh could not win one match against Sri Lanka, in a home tour. This Sri Lanka team, however, is very much in danger of spiraling out of a tournament they would have fancied winning with a second-string team in decades past.
The permutation is almost very simple. So slim is the difference in net run rate between Zimbabwe (-1.087) and Sri Lanka (0.989), that Sri Lanka must win. There is a chance – provided the match is high-scoring enough – that they can qualify even if they lose very narrowly, but if Tuesday’s match is any indication, the games may not be run-fests from here on out.
There is a personal subplot at play too. Before Sri Lanka left their island, new coach Chandika Hathurusingha brushed off suggestions that there would be added pressure upon him in this first assignment, in which he is coaching in (and against) the team he had so recently been with. Despite those remarks, there is surely a little pride at stake here. With his departure from Bangladesh having been spiky, Hathurusingha will be desperate for his team to make the final of this tournament, at the very least.
Sri Lanka: WLLLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Thisara Perera is enjoying a hot streak. From time to time – the last occasion was in 2014 – this is what he does. Once his bowling clicks, his batting rapidly falls into place, and he is suddenly incandescent. No longer is he the player who skies the first bouncer that comes his way. No longer does he spray the ball short and wide to collect an economy rate of well over six. In this series, he has been Sri Lanka’s ace, busting up batting orders, and bruising opposition attacks. The challenge as ever, however, is for Thisara to maintain this temperature.
More consistent than Thisara, and just as effective in this series, has been Shakib Al Hasan who tops the tournament wicket-takers’ list, and has the third-best aggregate of runs to boot. Not often has he batted at No. 3 for Bangladesh – coming in at first drop in only five of his 173 innings – but in this tournament, he has struck two half-centuries in that position. With the Mirpur square now showing signs of wear, his bowling may be even more potent in the last two matches.
Kusal Perera is out of the tournament with a side strain, so Danushka Gunathilaka is likely to take his place in the XI. Asela Gunaratne’s spot also looks a little shaky, though perhaps he will stave away a challenge from the newly-arrived Dhananjaya de Silva for at least one more match.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 5 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.) 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Nuwan Pradeep
Bangladesh are unlikely to make any changes to the XI that trounced Zimbabwe on Tuesday.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Shakib Al Hasan, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 5 Mahmudullah, 6 Sabbir Rahman, 7 Nasir Hossain, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), 9 Sunzamul Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Rubel Hossain.
Pitch and conditions
The weather in Mirpur is expected to be fine on Thursday, with temperatures only reaching the low 20-degree Celsius range. With pitches having become slower, lower and trickier to bat on through the tournament, batting first may be the preferred option.
Stats and trivia
Mustafizur Rahman needs one more dismissal to complete 50 wickets in ODIs. If he gets it in this match, he will be the sixth fastest bowler to the milestone (alongside Shane Warne and Matt Henry), and by a distance the fastest Bangladesh bowler.
Sri Lanka have never previously lost two successive matches to Bangladesh.
Thisara Perera has nine wickets at 15.11 in this tournament, but in the previous two years, he had taken only 18 wickets at 46.94 over 21 innings. His batting had not fared much better during that time, when he averaged merely 12.46. In this tournament he has struck 132 runs at a strike rate of 171, however.