For Bangladesh, the first ever T20 series at the Zohur Ahmed Chowhury Stadium in Chittagong, will be more than just a series. It is going to be an opportunity to gauge the side's chances in the upcoming ICC World Twenty20. Going by the hosts' poor record in this format of the game, a win against the word's number-one ranked side could be the perfect morale-booster ahead of the mega event in March.
A series-squaring victory against Zimbabwe was the only positive result for Bangladesh in the last six games. Their problem has mainly been their inability to finish matches.
The batting does not seem to be much of a problem -- they have averaged 176 runs in the last six games. It's their bowling that has let them down. The bowling records over the last two years have not been impressive.
Shohag Gazi averages 40 with an economy rate of 8.42. Captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has an economy rate of 7.68 with a tendency to leak runs in the death overs. Rubel Hossain played just two matches in the last two years but has managed to leak over a 100 runs. On an average Bangladesh gave away 56 runs in the powerplay overs last year, an aspect that has consistently hurt them.
These are matters that they will want to improve on ahead of the world cup, the process of which should begin from this series, according to Mashrafe.
“We are not up to the mark as yet, but we are improving in this format. We were in a similar phase in ODIs before when we could not finish games. The only way we can start winning matches is by playing more competitive games, and we are doing that. This will be a good practice for us ahead of the World Cup,” said Mashrafe during the pre-match press conference at the ZACS yesterday.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Abdur Razzak's injuries have brought in a number of youngsters to the side, which gives the hosts plenty of options with regards to their final eleven.
Tamim Iqbal, who batted with a neck-brace in practice yesterday, is expected to recover in time for the match. He is expected to be joined by Shamsur Rahman at the top. The usual suspects -- Shakib Al Hasan, Mominul Haque and Nasir Hossain -- will be forming the middle order. With no room at the top for Anamul Haque, Mithun Ali is expected to keep wickets and get a debut game. Mahmudullah Riyad is expected to take the number seven spot; that is of course unless the management decides to give Forhad Reza or the uncapped Sabbir Rahman an opportunity.
The bowling department is likely to include Al-Amin Hossain and Shohag Gazi alongside Mashrafe. Slow-left armer Arafat Sunny is likely to complete the spin-trio.
The Sri Lankans, on the other hand have their work cut out with their limited overs specialists joining the side. Lasith Malinga is one bowler that Bangladesh have special plans for. There was however bad news for the visitors as batting great Mahela Jayawardene injured a finger on his right hand during catching practice yesterday, and chances are that he will be rested today.
“Malinga is one of the best bowlers of the world in T20 cricket. Our batsmen have planned how to handle him. Hopefully we will be successful. We are thinking positively about him. If we think about him too much it will only have a negative impact,” said Mashrafe.
The visitors, going by Dinesh Chandimal's statement are expected to follow a similar line-up to their last series and won't be going for 'experimentation'.