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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh in Sri Lanka: A preview

Update : 06 Mar 2017, 07:00 PM
[gallery ids="50791,50792,50793,50794"] After Bangladesh lost the first Test of 2016 to England by a close margin of 21 runs, memories of Multan in 2003, Fatullah in 2006, and Chittagong in 2008 came flooding back to haunt us again of the Test victories that were so close, yet, so far.

Winning a Test match against the likes of Pakistan, Australia, or even New Zealand would have bolstered Bangladesh’s credibility as a Test-playing nation at a time when it certainly was in question. The tigers, however, redeemed themselves in the second match when they beat England in three days by 108 runs.

This, in fact, showed that the team was not only improving in home conditions in the ODI format, but also in Test cricket. After playing Test matches in New Zealand and India within a short period, the team can no longer say that they have forgotten how to play it because of the long gaps between matches (for more than a year for at least two instances in recent times).

The fact that Shakib has played only 47 matches in his 10-year-long career (as opposed to 100-120 matches played by other teams in the same time frame) shows how infrequently Bangladesh gets an opportunity at this format but the same is true for other teams in their early years.

Bangladesh will for the first time be playing a Sri Lankan team which is without the likes of Sangakkara and Dilshan. Angelo Mathews, their current senior-most batter, will also be out of the series because of an injury.

Bangladesh, I daresay, may be considered strong contenders for the ODI series but whether they are quite there in the longer version can only be answered after the series is completed. I will try to use stats to find out whether a Bangladeshi victory maybe possible.

Bangladesh team batting

With captain Mushfiqur declaring that he will not be batting, I had to shuffle the batting order accordingly and put in Liton Das as wicket-keeper batsman.

I am guessing the team management will choose Mahmudullah over Sabbir for the sixth batsman since he has more experience and also because of his performance in the just concluded Hyderabad test.

Mominul has an average close to 50 but the issue of concern is that his batting average has been falling for the last two years.

The other batsman with an average over 40 is Shakib Al Hassan who has been batting at an average of 52.53 for the last two years and around 50 for five long years.

Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur who average in the 30s have been averaging over 40 for the last five years. Soumya Sarkar, who has an average of 31.77, averages 44.75 as an opening batsman. Mahmudullah needs to lift his average over 35 if he wants to stay in the team for the long haul.

The problem with Bangladesh’s batting lies not with the top order but with the weak tail which can collapse in minutes once the sixth wicket falls.

If the wicket is pacer-friendly, Subashis Roy, who was impressive in the only Test he played will replace Taijul. However, the team management may prefer Kamrul or Rubel.

Sri Lanka Test team batting

With no Dilshan, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, or Mathews, the Lankans will have to rely on Chandimal and the newcomers to put any kind of scoreboard pressure on the visiting Tigers.

Karunaratne, Chandimal, and Tharanga are the only experienced batsmen in this team. Dhananjaya, Gunaratne, and Dickwella are fairly inexperienced.

Gunaratne’s average of 75 came against the two test matches he played against Zimbabwe while Dickwella, who has never played as an opener, averages only 20. While the Lankan’s top order batting lineup is weaker than Bangladesh due to inexperience, they do have a stronger tail with Herath and Perera.

Bangladesh bowling

Bangladesh will be happy to have Mustafizur Rahman back in the Test team after a while. Barring Shakib and Rubel (who will mostly likely not be picked) none of the bowlers have much experience, keeping in mind that Mahmudullah is a part time bowler who is selected in the team for his batting.

If Bangladesh somehow manages to pull off a surprise victory, it will be similar to Sri Lanka’s first overseas victory against New Zealand in 1994-95 when Sri Lanka’s pace bowling attack was as inexperienced as Bangladesh’s is now

While ESPN Cricinfo debutant of the year for 2016 Mehedi will indeed strengthen Bangladesh’s spin attack, Shakib’s strike rate for the past year has improved to 50.3.

Mustafizur’s pace bowling partner will need to be able to contain the batsman for runs like Shahid did when Rahman demolished South Africa for 248 in Chittagong. However, if Taskin can bring early breakthroughs and the fielders, especially the slippers, can hold on to catches, Bangladesh may be able to put on some pressure.

Sri Lanka bowling

Sri Lanka will be missing the part-time pace bowling of Mathews in addition to his batting.

They have found a new pacer in Kumara who excelled under the South African conditions.

Pushpakumara, the new spinner, who is yet to play Test cricket, also has an outstanding first class record. However, Perera will most likely be the second spin option for the Lankans.

Herath is most likely the greatest left arm spinner and has been improving his records by leaps and bounds every year. He has an average of 20.58 and a strike rate of 45.5 for the last 12 months.

A lot will depend on him if the Lankans want to get Bangladesh out cheaply. Perera and Sandakan are also capable spinners who know how to utilise home conditions to their full advantage.

The pace bowling attack has more experience but on paper looks, at best, what can only be described as decent.

The Sri Lankans, despite having a weaker batting attack, will want to win the series, and the recent memory of thrashing Australia (the then) number one ranked team 3-0 in their backyard will give them confidence.On the other hand, a 2-0 series victory will promote Bangladesh to eigth in Test team rankings, something they desperately want to do soon.

Sri Lanka may be relying on their spinners to win this series but Bangladesh should remember that the Australian pace bowlers did very well in those conditions but for any chance of a victory the fielders must hold on to catches.

It will be interesting to see how well Liton Das does as a keeper and whether the Bangladeshi spinners can make use of Lankan conditions if provided with spinning tracks.

If Bangladesh somehow manages to pull off a surprise victory, it will be similar to Sri Lanka’s first overseas victory against New Zealand in 1994-95 when Sri Lanka’s pace bowling attack was as inexperienced as Bangladesh’s is now.

It may be a tall order to expect Mustafiz to do what Vaas did in Napier or to expect Mehedi to do what Steve O’Keefe did to India but one can only dream.

Syed Munazir Hussain is a freelance contributor.

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