A day after India registered yet another T20 triumph over arch-rivals Pakistan, Sri Lanka will take on Bangladesh in the fifth match of the Asia Cup on Sunday at Mirpur. This will be the first big challenge for Sri Lanka after they kicked off their campaign with a win against UAE albeit an unimpressive one. Their batting left a lot to be desired in that contest, and they will need to show significant improvements in that respect. As for Bangladesh, this will be a crucial contest for them. After being beaten by India, they came back to defeat UAE, but like Sri Lanka, their batting too was rather underwhelming.
As evident from above, both teams will need their batsmen to fire in the contest on Sunday. Speaking of Sri Lanka first, they have traditionally held a stranglehold over Bangladesh irrespective of the venue. Having said that, this is a Lankan side devoid of superstars like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara, and very much a team in rebuilding phase. As such, they wouldn’t be firm favourites going into the clash at Dhaka on Sunday. Tillakaratne Dilshan is the only batting star, whose link goes back to the Jayawardene-Sangakkara era, but it remains to be seen whether he still can deliver the results.
With Dilshan not at his best, and Kusal Perera out, Sri Lanka are struggling with the opening combination. Dinesh Chandimal went up the order against UAE, and he was an instant success, top scoring with 50. But, Lanka will need Dilshan to fire as well. Also, Chandimal needs to learn to clear the field better in the first six overs, as that is a period when then field restrictions are underway. The other Lankan batsmen also need to rise to the occasion. A lot will be expected of skipper Angelo Mathews, who will have to handle the middle order. There will be pressure on Chamara Kapugedera to deliver for he has been around for a while now.
Sri Lanka would be pleased with their bowling effort against UAE, as skipper Lasith Malinga proved he remains dangerous even after all these years. However, there are again concerns over his fitness, so it remains to be seen whether he will play on Sunday. Nuwan Kulasekara also came up with a brilliant spell against UAE, and was nicely supported by Rangana Herath. The experienced bowlers clearly made the difference in the previous game. Lanka would hope the batsmen also join in against Bangladesh.
As for the hosts, they would be keen to catch the defending World T20 champs off guard. But, Bangladesh themselves performed poorly with the bat against UAE, so they have some work to do in that department. Mohammad Mithun and Mahmudullah batted with maturity in the last game, so that is a definite positive they will take into Sunday’s clash. In fact, Mahmudullah shone with the ball as well, with 2 for 5. Mustafizur Rahman and Mashrafe Mortaza came back nicely with the ball after the thrashing against India. As such, Bangladesh would be confident when then take on Lanka. But, whether they are good enough to beat the best in the T20s remains to be seen.
--By A Cricket Analyst