The tour of Sri Lanka has saved Bangladesh's weakest format for last.
On top of that they enter the two-match T20I series, beginning today with the first match at the R Premadasa International Stadium at 7:30pm (Bangladesh time), with little or no momentum after having been brought down to earth with a crushing 70-run defeat in the third ODI on Saturday, scuppering their chance of creating history with a first-ever series win over the hosts.
Even more worryingly, they displayed very little ability to tackle the moving ball in that match, with Tamim Iqbal, Sabbir Rahman and Mushfiqur Rahim departing within the first four overs to Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal, ceding the momentum decisively in the home side's favour. That problem will only be compounded by the presence of the deadly Lasith Malinga along with swing merchant Kulasekara under lights, and in a format where there is very little time to get one's eye in.
To tackle that, opener Tamim may have to play the role he performed in the first ODI in Dambulla, when he batted till the 48th over to score 127 while the other batsmen attacked around him. “That will actually be beneficial, but we haven't had the team meeting yet, so I don't know for sure if that is the path we will take,” skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza yesterday said before team practice under lights at the Premadasa. “It will be good if someone stays till the end and the others bat around him.
“Kulasekara depends on swing, and Malinga bases it on yorker length deliveries. We have to make mental adjustments to play them,” said Mashrafe about the twin but divergent threats of Sri Lanka's pacers.
Mashrafe also seemed to be managing expectations about today's game, which is to be expected given the teams' respective records in the formats, especially recent form. Bangladesh have lost all their last seven T20Is going back to the World Twenty20 last March, while Sri Lanka have won series in South Africa and Australia coming into this one.
“They have some impact players like [Chamara] Kapugedara, Malinga and [Dilshan] Munaweera. They can turn the game around. This team won in Australia and South Africa. Winning in South Africa especially is very hard for Asian teams.”
The last time the two teams met in the format was in the Asia Cup format, a match that Bangladesh won.
“The Asia Cup performance [runner-up] was our best ever T20 performance. We couldn't finish well in the World T20 last year. We are getting better but we haven't reached our desired level. Most of the other teams are doing better than us in T20s. We need some impact players,” Mashrafe said before pointing out a pertinent difference between the two teams when asked who Bangladesh's impact players are.
“We have a lot of impact players but they have to settle down first,” he said. “We have Sabbir Rahman, Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim. They have to combine to play well, which is important.”
Before the next question was asked Mashrafe added with a smile: “And of course, Mustafizur [Rahman].”
The left-arm quick is perhaps Bangladesh's premier impact player, but he has been off colour in the ODI series during which he was uncharacteristically expensive.
“Other teams will start reading you the more you play at the international level,” Mashrafe said, perhaps speaking about Mustafizur's cutters, before moving on to the rest of the bowlers. “Rather than giving excuses, I will say that we didn't play up to the level of expectation placed on us in the last game. You have to try something new when you know the batsman is reading you.”
Mashrafe however was very much thinking about a win. “They beat Australia 3-0, but we won the second Test to draw the series. We haven't seen dew in the wicket. If there's no dew, it will be an equal game.”