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Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka look to complete tour sweep

Ban v SL, 2nd T20I, preview

Bangladesh have been hit by injuries and have one last chance to bring it all together and make sure Sri Lanka don’t go home with all the trophies on offer.

Overview

Bangladesh v Sri Lanka
Sylhet International Cricket Stadium, Sylhet
2nd T20I
Sunday 18 February; 16:30 local time, 11:00 GMT

It’s been a fruitful time for Sri Lanka in Bangladesh, with a triangular one-day international series also involving Zimbabwe, two Tests and then the Twenty20 International series. They have won everything after a few initial stumbles in the ODIs, and go into the final game of the tour, the second T20I, looking to add the title to the spoils after having won the first game in some style.

Played at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium, the first T20I was a run feast. In the absence of Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah won the toss and opted to bat. Bangladesh put up 193/5 following half-centuries from Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim, and 43 from the stand-in captain. On another day, it might have been enough, but with Kusal Mendis, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dasun Shanaka and Thisara Perera smashing it, not only did Sri Lanka overhaul the target, they did so with 20 balls in hand for a six-wicket win.

Mahmudullah
Mahmudullah

That would have hurt Bangladesh, a proud team which has run up an excellent home record in recent times, one which has taken a bit of a battering in the last month. Shakib missed the first T20I with the finger injury he picked up in the ODI series, and Tamim Iqbal was out with a bicep injury too, leaving Bangladesh short of experience, especially in the batting department. They ended up handing debuts to four players – Zakir Hasan, Afif Hossain, Ariful Haque and Nazmul Islam – but only the last of them, a 26-year-old left-arm spinner, did anything of note, returning 2/25 from four overs after opening the bowling.

The way it turned out, the batsmen fell short by around 15-20 runs, as Mahmudullah said afterwards, and the bowling was quite off the boil, providing too much in the hitting arc of the batsmen and paying the price.

There’s a lot for Bangladesh to address on those fronts. Getting Shakib and Tamim, though no formula for winning, back on the field can only help, but in the event of that not happening – in part or in full – the onus will be on the men in the middle to do what they can to end what has been a disappointing run.

In the other corner are the Sri Lankans. After an indifferent 2017, they have done well under new coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who, ironically, helmed the Bangladesh team till recently. They have missed Angelo Mathews, and had Asela Gunaratne ruled out before the first game. Kusal Perera, meanwhile, was ruled out before the series. Importantly for them, Mendis, a late replacement, put in a super performance in the first game, scoring a 27-ball 53 at the start of the chase to win the Player of the Match award.

It’s not often that four batsmen score 30 or more in a T20I innings, but Sri Lanka did on 15 February as they recorded their highest successful chase in the format. Gunathilaka scored 30 in 15 alongside Mendis at the top. Then Shanaka stepped in with an unbeaten 24-ball 42 in the middle and Thisara Perera went big in scoring 39 not out from 18 balls to hurry the end.

The bowlers went for quite a few but, unlike when Bangladesh bowled, Sri Lanka had three of the frontline bowlers keeping it relatively tight – Thisara, Akila Dananjaya and Jeevan Mendis all gave away runs at a rate below the match average, and that was crucial.

Bangladesh need a turnaround, and quick, while Sri Lanka will hope to flow with the momentum, continue to win the key moments and leave Bangladesh on a high note.

Thisara Perera, with his all-round skills, is a crucial cog in the Sri Lankan wheel
Thisara Perera, with his all-round skills, is a crucial cog in the Sri Lankan wheel

Key players

Mahmudullah (Bangladesh): It’s never easy to be a stop-gap captain, and Mahmudullah hasn’t had the rub of the green going his way since stepping in for Shakib in the Tests first and then the T20Is. He got runs in the first T20I, scoring an unbeaten 43 in 31 balls from No. 5, and considering his experience and class, he will have to take the onus to continue the good work and lift the Bangladesh batting, especially if the team continues to miss senior pros.

Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka): He is the little island nation’s big T20 expert, having been a popular pick for franchises around the world of league cricket. A total of 2533 runs and 210 wickets from 227 matches underscore his utility. He can pull out the big shots without really taking time to settle in while batting and can usually be trusted to send in three-four overs without conceding too many – almost the ideal T20 man.

Conditions

The pretty hill station of Sylhet hasn’t always been on the itinerary of touring teams, hosting just six T20Is over the years, all of them in the group stages of the ICC World Twenty20 2014. There were good runs scored in Sylhet during the Bangladesh Premier League 2017, and the locals, who have never had the national team in their neck of the woods before, will hope for a spot of entertainment from their heroes. It should be a cool evening with clear skies, with the temperature expected to hover around 20°C.

Afif Hossain, one of four debutants for Bangladesh in the first T20I, didn't have too good a time of it
Afif Hossain, one of four debutants for Bangladesh in the first T20I, didn't have too good a time of it

Squads

Bangladesh: Mahmudullah (capt), Abu Hider Rony, Abu Jayed, Afif Hossain, Ariful Haque, Mehedi Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mustafizur Rahman, Nazmul Islam, Rubel Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Soumya Sarkar, Tamim Iqbal, Zakir Hasan.

Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Amila Aponso, Akila Dananjaya, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Asitha Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Shehan Madushanka, Jeevan Mendis, Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera, Dasun Shanaka, Upul Tharanga, Isuru Udana, Jeffrey Vandersay.

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