Sterner tests await batsmen as teams move to Mirpur turner


Big Picture

Thank heavens the first match is over. In Chittagong, bowlers were buffeted by meaningless run-making gales, boundaries came in endless waves, and the game, eventually, was sunk – a few confidence-boosting hundreds the only salvageable thing from the whole affair. It was a pitch so heavily loaded in the batsmen’s favour, it was difficult to get a gauge on how these teams really stack up. Sri Lanka’s batsmen certainly outlasted their counterparts in the first innings, but will the same necessarily hold true on a track that is a sterner test of defensive technique? Lahiru Kumara, the Sri Lanka quick, was ineffective in Chittagong, but would facing him have been a different proposition on a pitch that gave him something – anything – to work with?

The track in Mirpur, however, is expected to be substantially different. Here is where Bangladesh roll out the dustbowls that yank their spinners emphatically into the game. In Mirpur have they recently claimed two huge Test scalps – England and Australia.

Sri Lanka are no strangers to the “maximum spin” strategy, of course, having employed it with great success at home when certain teams come to visit. But Bangladesh will hope their familiarity with this particular surface will provide them with an advantage – mild though it may be.

The hosts are, however, more hamstrung by the absence of Shakib Al Hasan than Sri Lanka are by the absence of Angelo Mathews. In the most recent match here – against Australia last August – Shakib claimed 10 wickets and scored a vital first-innings 84. Even if the likes of Mehidy Hasan and Taijul Islam can be effective in Mirpur, the wonderful balance Shakib adds to the XI will be missed. That he is the leader of this team only makes the loss more acute.

Form guide

Bangladesh DLLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka DDLDW

In the spotlight

Having not made a century since November 2014, Mominul Haque took full advantage of the Chittagong surface, hitting 281 runs in total to properly reclaim his place in the side. If that Test was the fillip that gets Mominul’s career back on track, the boredom might even have been worth it. A player of obvious quality, and, when he is at his flowing best, scintillating to watch, it is now up to Mominul to get his average above 50, where it belongs, and keep it there.

Like Mominul, Dhananjaya de Silva is the most watchable batsman in his side, and he too is re-establishing his place. At Chittagong, he became the joint-fastest Sri Lanka batsman to 1000 Test runs, one innings after scoring an excellent rearguard hundred in Delhi. So far, de Silva has been a confidence player – one good innings rolling into two or three more, just as had been the case in his debut series against Australia, in which he was the top run-scorer. Full of form now, and with a good track record on turning pitches, he may be a key player again in Mirpur.

Team news

Sabbir Rahman is likely to pip Mosaddek Hossain as he appears to be a more aggressive option. Sunzamul Islam’s place is still up for grabs, with Abdur Razzak being slightly ahead of Kamrul Islam and Nayeem Hasan, who could still get a chance.

Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Liton Das (wk) , 6 Mahmudullah (capt), 7 Sabbir Rahman/ Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Abdur Razzak, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

Lahiru Kumara, who fielded poorly, in addition to being wayward with the ball in Chittagong, is likely to give way to Dushmantha Chameera – the other quick bowler in the Sri Lanka squad. There may be no other major changes.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne, 2 Kusal Mendis, 3 Dhananjaya de Silva, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Roshen Silva, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dilruwan Perera, 8 Rangana Herath, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Dushmantha Chameera

Pitch and conditions

Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal strongly suspects the pitch will produce a result, as it already appears pretty dry on the eve of the match. The weather in Dhaka is expected to remain good for the duration of the Test, with temperatures in the high-20 degrees range.

Stats and trivia

  • Rangana Herath needs only four more wickets to surpass Wasim Akram’s tally of 414 and become the most successful left-armer in the history of Test cricket.

  • Herath is also seven wickets shy of becoming the most successful finger spinner in history (counting Muttiah Muralitharan as a wrist spinner). Harbhajan Singh is at 417 scalps, and the only spinners ahead of him are bona-fide legends: Murali, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble.

  • No fewer than 34 wickets in the most recent Test in Mirpur fell to spin. In the previous Test, featuring England, 32 wickets fell to spin. Neither match went to the fifth day.

  • Having played Sri Lanka in six of his 11 Tests, 29% of Mominul’s 2121 Test runs have come against them. He averages 48.20 overall and 62 against Sri Lanka.

Quotes

“We got out of a tough position in the first match. So this game is a great chance for us to win a Test series. I think all the players are thinking positively, which will help our outcome.”
Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah

“When you look at this pitch, definitely there will be a result. The pitch looks dry. Spinners will definitely come into play. It is challenging for both teams. It won’t be like Chittagong. We saw in the ODI tri-series that they were really bad pitches at this ground. It was good for the spinners but not for the batters. This pitch looks similar.”
Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal



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