Host Bangladesh will appear for the fourth time in the grand finale of a multi-nation tournament when they lock horn with Sri Lanka in the title-decider of the tri-nation ODI series at Mirpur Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka Saturday. The Tigers previously played the title-decider of a multi-nation series in 2009 and in the Asia Cup in 2012 and 2016 but have never been successful in lifting the title.
It also happens that all the previous Bangladesh appearances in a multi-nation final were played at the home of cricket in Mirpur. The occasion will be the second when they take on Sri Lanka in a tri-series final. Previously, the Tigers faced Sri Lanka in a 2009 triangular series that also involved Zimbabwe. Host Bangladesh made an amazing start, leaving Sri Lanka reeling on five for six wickets. However, Bangladesh tasted disappointment at the end as the island nation eventually chased down their target of 153 runs with two wickets in hand.
With ODIs returning home after 15 months, Bangladesh made a flying start to the tri-series, winning the first two matches with bonus points to qualify for the final while the other opponents fought to confirm the remaining berth. The results were brilliant compared to what Bangladesh had experienced in 2017 when they played majority of their games away from home.
The high flying Tigers however, were dramatically shot down by Sri Lanka in the last league match Thursday at the same venue as the host were first dismissed for only 82 before the Lankans romped home with all 10 wickets intact.
The Bangladesh dressing room had only around 48 hours to recover from the shocking defeat. According to captain Mashrafe bin Mortaza, it was failure of execution by the batsmen that cost the side heavily. With that said, only two matches ago, Bangladesh scored a massive 320 against the same Sri Lanka side, riding on contributions from Tamim Iqbal, Shakib al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim.
However, the contributions from the middle-order comprising Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain and Sabbir Rahman are not yet coming. It was a worrying sight to say the least when Bangladesh crumbled to 82. And ahead of the final, the team will expect all the members to step up and put up a joint effort.
Bangladesh announced a 16-member squad for the final with the inclusion of Imrul Kayes. Imrul was ruled out of the tournament following a finger injury. Inclusion of the left-handed batsman has raised discussions if Anamul Haque would be replaced from the opening slot. Anamul returned to the national fold in this series after a gap of almost three years. The wicketkeeper-batsman however, failed to impress, scoring a combined 55 in four innings, including knocks of one and a duck in the last two innings.
In contrast, Sri Lanka would be looking to put 2017 firmly behind them when they take to the field Saturday. The cricket legacy of the island nation was in jeopardy following below-par performances in the format in the last two years. Last year, the Lankans managed to win only five matches in 29 attempts, forcing the governing body of cricket in the country to take drastic measures. They duly roped in Chandika Hathurusingha as head coach from Bangladesh while Angelo Mathews took charge of the ODI team within six months of his resignation.
With the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales approaching, Sri Lanka had to start rebuilding and the signs are showing as the side stormed into the final demolishing host Bangladesh in a must win affair.
Sri Lanka when needed produced an all-round performance after starting the series on a losing note against Zimbabwe. They were clinical in their previous game against Bangladesh and are expected to head into the final with an unchanged playing XI.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
The left-handed batsman has been in glorious touch, scoring three fifties in four matches to sit at the top of the list of the highest run-scorer with 249 runs at an average of 83. Tamim however, holds the disappointment of not touching the 100-run mark despite being in superb touch. With Bangladesh playing their fourth title-decider in a multi-nation tournament, the southpaw will be looking to explode for the team with slight concern centering around the middle-order. Bangladesh will be highly dependent on Tamim to score in order to post a big total or chase down a target. Tamim will have an advantage in that he’ll be playing at his most favourite ground.
Having come in as the replacement of the injured Kusal Parera, opener Gunathilaka had an exciting time on the field as Sri Lanka whipped host Bangladesh, bundling them out for 82 and then chasing down the paltry target without any loss. Gunathilaka fired on the field, having run out all-rounder Shakib al Hasan amid confusion while running between the wicket with Tamim Iqbal. Only two balls later, he caught Tamim at point with a diving catch. The left-hander, appearing in his 32nd ODI, later scored an unbeaten 35 off as many balls with three boundaries and two over boundaries. In an occasion where Sri Lanka will look to win the title to end their recent run of poor form, the 26-year-old Gunathilaka will be expected to fire if the visiting side are to have any chance of overcoming Bangladesh.
Head to head
ODIs played - 43
Wins - Bangladesh (6), Sri Lanka (35)
No results - 2
Win % - Bangladesh (14.63), Sri Lanka (85.36)
Most runs - Bangladesh (Tamim Iqbal, 640), Sri Lanka (Kumar Sangakkara, 1206)
Highest score - Bangladesh (Tamim, 127), Sri Lanka (Tillakaratne Dilshan, 161*)
Most wickets - Bangladesh (Mashrafe bin Mortaza, 23), Sri Lanka (Muttiah Muralidaran, 31)
Best bowling - Bangladesh (Abdur Razzak, 5/62), Sri Lanka (Chaminda Vaas, 6/25)