Last year, playing in Sri Lanka, there had been nothing to separate these teams. The Tests, ODIs and T20Is were all shared 1-1, and Bangladesh left Sri Lanka having perhaps enjoyed their best-ever away tour. Now, disappointingly for the hosts, they have not been able to capitalise on the gains they had made on Sri Lanka in 2017. Sri Lanka won the tri-nation series after a wobbly start, dominated the Test series, and arrive at the T20Is now in sight of a sweep.
Whether they will be able to convert the confidence gained on tour into victory in the ficklest format is anyone’s guess. Sri Lanka have been woeful in T20Is over the past 10 months, losing each of their eight most recent encounters, often by substantial margins. With Lasith Malinga now out of the picture – at least temporarily – they are yet to find a bowler who might capably manage the death overs. The top order has not been setting the world alight either.
Bangladesh’s own T20 form is difficult to gauge. Since last April, they have only played two matches in the format, losing both games in South Africa. They will hope, for the sake of saving face in this tour, that the uncapped youngsters that have flooded this T20I squad can carry their BPL form into international cricket. The hosts remain without captain and marquee player Shakib Al Hasan, however. In each of last year’s victories over Sri Lanka, Shakib had played a vital role.
Bangladesh LLWLL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LLLLL
In the spotlight
It is not that Mustafizur Rahman has become less effective, exactly – more that opposition sides are now better prepared for the unique challenges he presents. On this tour Sri Lanka haven’t quite played him with confidence, but have mustered enough competence against him to prevent the left-arm pacer from making a match-winning impact. In T20Is, however, the opposition may not be able to see Mustafizur’s overs out as they have in other formats. The last time these teams played, Mustafizur took 4 for 21 and bowled his team to victory in Colombo. Playing a T20I at home for the first time in almost two years, Mustafizur has the potential to ravage the opposition again.
The last time Dinesh Chandimal captained the T20I side in Bangladesh, things went poorly for him. Unable to justify his place in the XI on performance, Chandimal was removed as captain midway through the 2014 World T20, and was left out of the side. His leadership has grown over the past few months, with series wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh, but questions remain over his ability to bat aggressively enough in the shortest format. Across 42 innings, his strike rate has only been 103.29.
Bangladesh are ravaged by injuries, with Tamim Iqbal (bicep) and Mushfiqur Rahim (wrist) having picked up niggles to add to Shakib’s finger injury. In any case, they have to make five changes to the XI that played in their most recent T20I in October.
If Tamim is fit, he will open with Soumya Sarkar. Among the newcomers, Afif Hossain, Ariful Haque and either one of Nazmul Islam or Mahedi Hasan are likely to make their debuts.
Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Liton Das (wk) , 6 Mahmudullah (capt), 7 Sabbir Rahman/Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Taijul Islam, 10 Kamrul Islam, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Sri Lanka’s XI is difficult to predict. On the fast-bowling front, they are likely to field at least one of Shehan Madushanka and Asitha Fernando – both uncapped in this format. It is also unclear who might partner Akila Dananjaya in the spin attack – perhaps Amila Aponso, the left-arm spinner.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Danushka Gunathilaka, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Asela Gunaratne, 6 Thisara Perera, 7 Dasun Shanaka, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Isuru Udana, 10. Amila Aponso, 11 Shehan Madushanka
Pitch and conditions
The pitch in Mirpur is likely to be slow but still good for batting. The weather in Dhaka has quickly warmed up, with temperatures set to be in the mid 20-degrees range. No rain is forecast.
Stats and trivia
Chandimal has maintained a strike-rate below 100 in 20 of his 42 T20I innings. These are generally his lower scores, which suggests he has trouble getting started in a T20 knock.
Perhaps Mustafizur’s most-impressive T20 stat is his economy rate of 6.16 after 17 innings. At home, that rate goes further down to 5.61.
Although Sri Lanka have the longer losing streak heading into this match, Bangladesh’s T20 record since the 2016 World T20 has also been awful. They have lost 10 of their 11 most-recent games.
“I am excited with the new faces in the team. If we can think on our feet, in terms of our tactics, we can do well in this game.”
Bangladesh captain Mahmudullah backs the hosts ahead of the first T20I
“We have done well so far, in the one-day tournament and the Test series also. We have confidence. We’ve got good momentum. We want to carry that forward.”
Sri Lanka batsman Upul Tharanga believes the visitors’ momentum holds the key