Sri Lanka v Bangladesh – Preview

Less than six months after their last meeting, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are to play each other again this month.

The last meeting was labelled by Habibul Bashar as Bangladesh’s “worst ever”, and for a side with just one Test series victory, and that against a depleted Zimbabwe side, that says it all. The Tests brought a pair of innings defeats inside three days, and they never looked like coming close to a victory in the ODIs.

The one other meeting the sides have had paints a similar picture. Two comfortable victories in the tests, and three more in the ODIs, although in 2002 Bangladesh probably did put up a better fight.

Since last year’s series, the senior Bangladeshi side have not actually had any international cricket, but a number of their youngsters have been starring in the current Under-19 World Cup. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, were comprehensively beaten by India, 6-1 in ODIs and 2-0 in tests. With a different side they improved greatly in the VB Series, reaching the final and forcing in to the third game, but in the end Australia were too good for them.

The Players

Bangladesh ODI Squad: Habibul Bashar (captain), Khaled Mashud (wicketkeeper), Khaled Mahmud, Mohammad Ashraful, Javed Omar, Rajin Saleh,Aftab Ahmed, Shahriar Nafees,
Mohammad Rafique, Manjural Islam, Mashrafe Mortaza, Nazmul Hossain, Alok Kapali, Abdur Razzak, Syed Rasel.

At the time of writing, only the Bangladesh ODI squad has been named, with a recall for Alok Kapali. The Sri Lankan selectors are expected to look to the future, and senior players Atapattu, Vaas and Muralitharan are expected to be left out to keep them fresh in a hectic 2006 schedule. Muralitharan will also be able to spend some time with his new-born son.

With no Atapattu or Vaas, the issue of the captaincy in his absence is flung wide open. The frontrunners are considered to be Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, though there is a chance Sanath Jayasuriya could reprise his former role again.

Surprisingly, no warm up matches have been scheduled, and the series kicks off on the 19th, with the first of three ODIs. After those come two Tests, and by March 10th the series will be done and dusted.

Sri Lanka will probably look to try out some new faces, or give some fringe players another shot, in a quest to settle their line-up. There will still be some senior players in the batting department, in Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene, one of whom will almost certainly be leading the side.

Without Chaminda Vaas, the seam bowling department, which is hardly Sri Lanka’s strength, lacks a clear leader, but Sri Lanka will be hoping someone like Dilhara Fernando can really show what they’re made of and perhaps give Vaas a potent partner.

Both sides will probably field two specialist spinners as the Bangladeshi pitches are almost certain to turn. Mohammad Rafique is a certainty in their line-up, while Manjural Islam, Alok Kapali and Abdur Razzak battle it out to be his understudy, with Enamul Haque jnr coming into contention for the Tests.

As for Sri Lanka, Malinga Bandara looks to have a spot secured in the side in both forms, but his partner is by no means certain. Upul Chandana, uncapped Sajeewa Weerakoon and Rangana Herath are all possibilities.

Sri Lanka may choose to give debuts to players such as Akalanka Ganegema or Chamara Kapugedera, or we may see the likes of Jehan Mubarak or Michael Vandort given another bite at the cherry. Sri Lanka’s aims for the series will be to win convincingly, whilst finding out which of their fringe players are up to it, to be able to plan for the future.

Bangladesh will probably be aiming to come out of it looking more respectable than they did last time, and despite having a young side themselves, if they can take advantage of Sri Lanka’s inexperience they may be able to spring a surprise or two.

Players to Watch

Sri Lanka – Sanath Jayasuriya

Jayasuriya may have done it all before, but given his recent dropping, he still has a point to prove. Despite having a relatively poor 2005, when recalled for the VB Series, he repaid the selectors with a sparkling match-winning century. The seniority and the possible captaincy may encourage him to cement his place in the side, and if he does get going Bangladesh will really know about it. His left-arm spin could also prove handy.

Bangladesh – Habibul Bashar

Bangladesh’s captain, and also probably their best and most reliable batsman. He’s found it hard to stop playing the hook and pull shot, which has proved his downfall on so many occasions, but if he can finally get on top of it, it will be a big asset to Bangladesh. He may not have the excitement of an Aftab Ahmed or an Ashraful, but he’s been Bangladesh’s most solid contributor over the years, and is never too far out of the running when it comes to Bangladesh’s leading run scorer.

There’s no point trying to avoid it, Bangladesh are probably going to lose this series. Despite all their recent improvements, and an unsettled and inexperienced Sri Lankan outfit, it would take someone very brave to bet against the tourists for the series.

Sri Lanka’s decision to leave out their best players will make their team weaker, but even so, they still have Jayasuriya, Jayawardene and Sangakkara, so runs are not likely to be a problem. But if Bangladesh can exploit their weakened bowling attack, who knows what could happen.

Bangladesh will have to play out of their skin to win the series, and even if they don’t, we can only hope they offer some resistance, and give everyone an entertaining series.

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