Ball now in Tigers' court
Throughout Bangladesh's current tour of Sri Lanka, much has depended on the conditions at play, with the coin toss often competing with the skills of the players on the field to be the major actor in determining the outcome. In Tests it was hot and so would have been even more of an advantage to bat first. In the two day-night ODIs in Dambulla, batting first was an advantage because the batting team would get the best of conditions in the afternoon before the ball seamed around under lights at night.
Fortunately, today's third and series-deciding ODI is likely to be mostly free of elemental influence. There are no floodlights at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo, so when the match gets underway at 10:00am Bangladesh time, neither the toss nor late swing should affect either side too much.
There is one caveat however, rain may play equal opportunity spoilsport. While the hosts will be desperate not to go down as the first Sri Lanka outfit to be winless through a home ODI series since 2006, Bangladesh will be eager to prove that they are deserved winners by adding a second victory after the 90-run win in the opening game, and remove the lingering doubts from the washout in the second game when they were set a chase of 311. However, the forecast is only for passing showers in the late morning and afternoon, and it can be hoped in that event that the intrepid SSC groundsmen will be able to get the players back on the park with minimal fuss.
But barring rain, Bangladesh have the ball in their court in the endeavour to win their first ever series against Sri Lanka and their first away series win over a higher-ranked side, barring a 2009 series win over a West Indies side fielding its second eleven due to contract disputes. Ever since the humiliating 259-run defeat in the first Test in Galle, the Tigers have outplayed the Lions with bat, ball and on the field.
Even in the second ODI when Sri Lanka scored 311, a valiant bowling and fielding display from Bangladesh allowed the home side to score only 76 runs for the loss of six wickets in the last 10 overs. The last action from the match, which was abandoned due to rain that started during the innings break, was Taskin Ahmed getting a hattrick, so the momentum can still be said to be with Bangladesh.
On top of that, key players for Bangladesh are in form. Tamim Iqbal has been in red-hot touch throughout the tour and scored a match-winning century in the first game, Shakib Al Hasan chimed in with a blistering 72 and happily for Bangladesh, Mahmudullah Riyad seemed undimmed by his axing from the Test squad as he made the most of his short time in the middle by maximising Bangladesh's score along with newcomer Mosaddek Hossain, who was brilliant in his own right. Mushfiqur Rahim got out to a freak dismissal, but as always can be relied upon to come up with the goods.
On the bowling front, Mashrafe has looked dangerous with the new ball, Mehedi Hasan Miraz's addition has been as welcome as it was in the Test team and Taskin must be in high confidence mode after achieving only the fifth hattrick by a Bangladesh bowler in ODIs.
And the confidence was palpable in the body language of the players yesterday during practice. Shakib chose to take a rest, perhaps because of the stifling heat, but the rest of the squad were in good spirits, even as the skies darkened and spots of evening rain caused the ground to be covered comprehensively.
It is likely that the team will remain unchanged from the second ODI, and Sri Lanka's will probably be unchanged too. There is a bit of green on the pitch that will help the new ball early on, but apart from that a good day of cricket beckons, with the toss not likely to be a major factor -- 22 matches have been won by the team batting first here, and 30 by those batting second; 24 have been won by teams that won the toss and 28 by those calling wrongly. It seems that both sides will have a chance to have a say on this series uninterrupted by the elements, if only the rain stays away.