Two unpredictable sides desperate for a win face off in a two-match Test series in Pallekele
Ill-judged shots, inconsistent bowling, dropped catches, batting collapses – these aren’t unexpected anymore when Sri Lanka or Bangladesh play Test cricket. At the same time, when they start the first of two Tests in Pallekele on Wednesday, do expect the odd heroic performance. Those aren’t unusual with these teams either.
Last five completed matches – most recent first
Sri Lanka DDLLL
In the spotlight
Sri Lanka may go in with three specialist quicks, though this would be a highly unusual strategy at home. Lakmal would be the first-choice pacer, while Vishwa and Kumara might also feature in the XI. On the batting front, they will try to squeeze Nissanka into the side. Chandimal, who had a decent tour of West Indies, might just make way for Nissanka.
Sri Lanka (probable): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt), 2 Lahiru Thirimanne, 3 Oshada Fernando, 4 Dinesh Chandimal/Pathum Nissanka, 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Wanindu Hasaranga, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lahiru Kumara, 11 Vishwa Fernando
Soumya Sarkar’s axing once again opens up the debate on the opening combination. Pallekele’s green pitch may tempt Bangladesh to play three pace bowlers.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Shadman Islam, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 4 Mominul Haque (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim, 6 Mohammad Mithun, 7 Liton Das (wk), 8 Mehidy Hasan, 9 Ebadat Hossain, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Abu Jayed
Pitch and conditions
The photograph of Karunaratne inspecting a greenish Pallekele pitch two days before the first Test left many wondering if seam, swing and bounce could play a part on the first morning. Though it has rained around the Pallekele area, the weather is likely to be clear over the next five days.
Stats that matter
- This will be Bangladesh’s first overseas Test since the pandemic began. They lost the home series against West Indies 2-0 in February.
- Lakmal’s recent Player of the Series award was the first for a Sri Lankan fast bowler in a Test series since Nuwan Kulasekara won one in 2014.
- No Bangladesh bowler has taken a five-wicket haul against Sri Lanka since 2014.
“Technically, he’s outstanding. Physically, he’s very good and his fielding standards are exactly where they need to be. He’s slotted in nicely. Yes we’ve had to chip away and polish a little bit, but whatever Nissanka did with his coaches through the ranks has been pretty good. They’ve prepared him very well for international cricket.”
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur on newcomer Pathum Nissanka.
“I have come to Sri Lanka to play cricket. We will play according to our plan. I am only concerned about these things, and not much else. I don’t need to think about other things as a professional cricketer.”
Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque, when asked if the BCB’s scrutiny of the players would put extra pressure on them.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84