Match Preview – Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka, Bangladesh tour of Sri Lanka 2021, 1st Test .com

Preview

Two unpredictable sides desperate for a win face off in a two-match Test series in Pallekele

Big picture

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.

Bangladesh come into the series having lost their last eight international matches across formats. The wheels came off during the white-ball tour of New Zealand, but the confidence had already been shattered during their 2-0 Test series defeat against West Indies. Bangladesh were favourites at home, but they looked a team without a Plan B when the West Indian rookies fought back in Chattogram and Dhaka.
What will particularly hurt Bangladesh is the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, who is currently playing in the IPL. Without him, the visitors will rely heavily on Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque, and Mushfiqur Rahim .
In the batting department, Iqbal will be expected to provide stability at the top, although he hasn’t had a set opening partner for a long time, and the No. 3 position also remains uncertain. Haque’s home-and-away record carries a Jekyll-Hyde look, which would leave Rahim, one of Bangladesh’s best batters on foreign soil, with some heavy lifting to do. There are concerns in the bowling department, too. Mehidy Hasan and Abu Jayed are the only bowlers who are confirmed inclusions in the XI, leaving at least three spots up for grabs.
Bangladesh’s situation opens up an opportunity for Sri Lanka, who recently lost to England at home, and drew 0-0 in the West Indies. A few fightbacks notwithstanding, Sri Lanka have mostly struggled to get going in the recent past. At home, South Africa were the last visitors they truly dominated, in February 2019. After a 2-0 win in that series, they drew against New Zealand and lost to Pakistan, too.
The emergence of Oshada Fernando and Pathum Nissanka has helped the team strike a balance, with Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal bringing in the experience. Mathews returns after missing the West Indies series. Lahiru Thirimanne’s three fifties against West Indies were also encouraging, but for Sri Lanka to do better, these batters have to score big.
Much of the hosts’ bowling would depend on Suranga Lakmal in the absence of the injured Lasith Embuldeniya, who has been their highest wicket-taker this year so far. Vishwa Fernando, Wanindu Hasaranga and Lahiru Kumara will also have to lend support to Lakmal’s new-ball efforts.

Form guide

Last five completed matches – most recent first

Sri Lanka DDLLL

Bangladesh LLWLL

In the spotlight

Suranga Lakmal was adjudged Player of the Series for his 11 wickets against West Indies. He will be expected to do a similar job against Bangladesh in conditions that might assist pace bowlers. Lakmal would also be keen to bring down his bowling average of 50.87 in 23 Tests at home.
Mominul Haque has two things to work on: reviving his captaincy fortunes after losing five out of the last six Tests, and fixing his dismal away record as a batter. There will be considerable pressure on both fronts but, as he has proven in the past, he has the character to turn things around.

Team news

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.

Quotes

“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

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