It had begun so well. Bangladesh may still have been stinging from Chandika Hathurusingha’s surprise exit, but in the first three matches of the tri-nations ODI series, they stomped both oppositions, and appeared as if no side was capable of so much as challenging them in home conditions. Then came the 10-wicket thumping in Mirpur. Since then, in five matches against Sri Lanka (across formats), Bangladesh have lost four and drawn one. The absence of Shakib Al Hasan – due to injury – has been telling.
Sunday’s T20 is their last chance to restore a degree of respectability to the affair. With Tamim Iqbal set to return to the top of the order after missing Thursday’s game, and the top order firing in any case, the batting appears to be stable. Much will depend on how a young, largely inexperienced Bangladesh attack can contend with a suddenly-confident Sri Lanka batting order. On Thursday, the visitors ran down Bangladesh’s highest-ever T20 score inside 17 overs. Sri Lanka are not a world-beating limited-overs side yet, though. There are holes in their batting order – Bangladesh must only work out how to exploit them.
For the visitors, the pressure is off. They have already performed better on this tour than expected, especially as they had begun the trip with a loss to Zimbabwe. A victory to seal the T20 series would be further indication that Hathurusingha is setting the side back on track. Tougher examinations await, but with Sri Lanka snapping an eight-match T20 losing streak on Thursday, early signs appear healthy.
BangladeshLLLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLLLL
In the spotlight
Mushfiqur Rahim has had a modest tour. In 10 innings going back to the start of the tri-series, he has only crossed fifty three times. As his 66 off 44 on Thursday demonstrated, however, Bangladesh’s batting appears exponentially stronger when he is productive. He had, in fact, been one of the primary contributors to Bangladesh’s excellent tour of Sri Lanka last year. In the continued absence of Shakib, Bangladesh will look to Mushfiqur to carry the middle order again on Sunday.
In the ODI series Kusal Mendis had been unconvincing, but he batted himself into form on a flat Chittagong Test-match pitch, and has now produced his first outstanding T20 innings, hitting 53 off 27 balls on Thursday. Few would have picked him for an opener, but that is a role he has flourished in over the past few weeks. Prior to his injury, Kusal Perera had probably been slated to open alongside Danushka Gunathilaka, but if Mendis produces another good innings on Sunday, he will probably keep that position in the Nidahas Trophy next month.
Tamim’s return to fitness is the good news for Bangladesh. Zakir Hasan is likely to make way for him in the opening slot. Sabbir Rahman’s continued poor form could see him make room for Mohammad Mithun, while Abu Jayed and Mahedi Hasan could also get chances by replacing Mohammad Saifuddin and Rubel Hossain.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Mushfiqur Rahim, 4 Mohammad Mithun/Sabbir Rahman, 5 Afif Hossain, 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Ariful Haque, 8 Mahedi Hasan/Mohammad Saifuddin, 9 Nazmul Islam, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Rubel Hossain/Abu Jayed
Sri Lanka are likely to field the same XI, though perhaps it is possible that Asitha Fernando will come in for Shehan Madushanka.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Danushka Gunathilaka, 2 Kusal Mendis, 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Dasun Shanaka, 5 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 8 Jeevan Mendis, 9 Akila Dananjaya, 10 Isuru Udana, 11 Shehan Madushanka
Pitch and conditions
The picturesque Sylhet ground has batting-friendly pitches, as was evident during the BPL. In four evening games last year, the ground averaged 174 for sides batting first in the domestic T20 tournament. The weather in Sylhet will be significantly cooler after sunset.
Stats and trivia
Before Thursday, Kusal Mendis’ highest T20 international score had been 22. He did not make double figures in five of his previous eight innings.
Mushfiqur Rahim is two dismissals away from completing 50 in T20 internationals. He would be the fifth wicketkeeper to the milestone, after MS Dhoni, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Shahzad and Dinesh Ramdin.
Thisara Perera needs one more wicket to complete fifty in T20 internationals. Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara and Ajantha Mendis are the other Sri Lankans to have achieved this feat.
“It is not that easy to do well in international cricket straightaway. They have the potential.”
Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah on the team”s newcomers, four of whom debuted on Thursday
“I am excited about the potential of this team. I don’t think we are playing near our potential.”
Sri Lanka coach Chandika Hathurusingha feels Sri Lanka still have a long way to go