Sri Lanka cricket team will look to start afresh after a dreadful run of results in the recent past when they face Zimbabwe in the tri-nation ODI series at Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka Wednesday.
Former world champion Sri Lanka experienced a disastrous year in 2017. In 29 ODIs, they won only five while in their last 10 games, the Lankans won only once, against India away from home in December.
With the game in turmoil, the cricket governing body of the island, Sri Lanka Cricket, took drastic measures, which includes reappointing influential all-rounder Angelo Mathews as the limited-over captain within six months of his resignation from the post. Also, the nation saw the appointment of a new head coach in the shape of Chandika Hathurusingha, who made an absurd exit to his Bangladesh job, despite having a contract running till the 2019 World Cup.
Apart from the results in the series, Sri Lanka will look for a team that can be pushed till the 2019 world event.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe were denied a pleasant start to the tournament as they lost to host Bangladesh by eight wickets Monday. The Zimbabweans suffered a batting collapse against the Bangladesh spinners and will be on their toes with Sri Lanka having similar strength to that of the Tigers.
However, Zimbabwe, looking to lift themselves ahead of hosting the World Cup 2019 qualifying tournament in March this year, will be backed by the confidence of winning the five- ODI away series against Sri Lanka in June-July last year. Graeme Cremer’s side had not beaten a fellow Test-playing nation away from home since getting the better of Bangladesh 16 years ago.
Zimbabwe, at the bottom of the ranking among the Full Members, have been boosted with the return of the vastly experienced Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, who have not played ODIs since 2015 and 2013 respectively.
Coach Heath Streak has indicated that Zimbabwe will devote more energy to one-day games, due to limited Test opportunities.
Head to head
ODIs played - 55
Wins - Sri Lanka (43), Zimbabwe (10)
Losses - Sri Lanka (10), Zimbabwe (43)
No results - 2
Win % - Sri Lanka (), Zimbabwe (18.86)
Most runs - Marvan Atapattu (Sri Lanka, 906), Andy Flower (Zimbabwe, 919)
Highest score - Tillakaratne Dilshan (Sri Lanka, 144), Alistair Campbell (131*)
Most wickets - Muttiah Muralidaran (Sri Lanka, 59), Heath Streak (Zimbabwe, 28)
Best bowling - Chaminda Vaas (Sri Lanka, 8/19), Paul Strang (Zimbabwe, 4/32)
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The Sri Lanka captain will be key for the island nation as his medium-pace bowling could be very handy on a relatively slow pitch like the Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. Mathews has retaken the responsibility of ODI captaincy under new head coach Chandika Hathurusingha and will definitely look to start the new year on a positive note. Mathews was in tremendous form in ODIs with the bat last year as he scored 573 runs in 14 innings at an average of 63.66. Sri Lanka need their captain leading from the front in order to show a strong performance.
Zimbabwe did not bat well against host Bangladesh in Monday’s match. Their only good performance with the bat came from Sikandar Raza’s willow. The right-handed batsman started his innings slowly when Zimbabwe lost early wickets and were struggling in the middle. Later Raza built his innings with ones and twos and crossed the 50-mark before being run out. The all-rounder had played in BPL 5 for Chittagong Vikings and scored some valuable runs. So Raza has played in these conditions for quite some time now in the last few months and will be pivotal for Zimbabwe again with his batting, and his off-spinners as well.