Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, P Sara Oval March 14, 2017

Bangladesh confront form, selection calls for landmark Test


Match facts

March 15-19, 2017
Start time: 10am local (0430GMT)

Play 03:28
Fernando: P Sara Oval the most result-oriented venue in the world

Big picture

The bigshots of the Bangladesh Cricket Board are arriving to much fanfare, soaring rhetoric about South Asian "brotherhood" abounds. Mementos are being polished, showmen are practicing their lines for the presentation: the celebrations for Bangladesh's 100th Test are all set to go, but after the politically-minded have lavishly slapped each other on the back, there is some cricket to be played as well.

It is the plight of Mahmudullah that will have most Bangladesh fans aflutter. He has been dropped from the Test squad but will continue to stay in the country. So will he play in the limited-overs series? Has the board overridden a coaching decision? Has a senior batsman been dealt with too harshly here? Whatever unfolds over the next 48 hours, Mahmudullah will not play, which means Bangladesh will make changes to the batting order that misfired in Galle - bringing in Sabbir Rahman or uncapped 21-year-old Mosaddek Hossain. Imrul Kayes is likely to replace Mominul Haque as well.

Bangladesh will need a stronger top order, because they are about to play on perhaps the most reliable result pitch in Test cricket. It has been 11 Tests and almost 14 years since a Test at P Sara Oval was drawn. The seamers generally gain good bounce early in the match, and the spinners run riot late in the game. Generally, there are precious few sessions where batsmen can claim to have had favourable conditions.

If Sri Lanka field the same attack, they may pose varied questions to the opposition. Lakshan Sandakan was wayward, but turned the ball viciously at times, while Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera were agents of guile and control. In Lahiru Kumara, Sri Lanka also have a quick who will relish bowling on a track that has a bit of zip.

Their own top order, however, is not quite as formidable as a flattering Galle surface made it seem. If Bangladesh are to level the series, here is the weakness they must exploit.

Form guide

Sri Lanka WLLLW (completed matches, most recent first)
Bangladesh LLLLW

In the spotlight

Having batted largely at no. 4 through the Australia series last year, Kusal Mendis is seemingly back for a long stint at first drop. In Galle he produced an innings that showcased why he is so highly rated by coaches, working his way through tough early spells, before opening his shoulders and setting the match up for Sri Lanka. He did, however, benefit from an early reprieve in that innings, and it is that looseness outside off stump that presently appears to be his greatest obstacle. On a Colombo track expected to be better for seam bowling than the previous pitch had been, Mendis may profit from a more discerning outlook at the start of his innings.

His teammates keep throwing their wickets away, and there have been three last-day collapses in the last four Tests, but consistently providing the innings with a spine this year is Mushfiqur Rahim. So far he has two hundreds and a fifty in six innings in 2017. Among the times he didn't reach a half-century was his defiance of New Zealand on day five in Wellington, where he was battered with bouncers, while he batted with an injured hand. If there is to be more substance from the Bangladesh top order in this Test, they could do worse than follow the example their captain has set.

Bangladesh should look to exploit Sri Lanka's batting weakness on a lively P Sara deck © AFP

Team news

Herath was tightlipped about Sri Lanka's combination before this match, but there may be little reason to change the winning XI. There is a chance Dimuth Karunaratne's is under pressure from Dhananjaya de Silva. It is also possible Sandakan is left out in favour of an extra batsman.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karuanaratne, 2 Upul Tharanga, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Asela Gunaratne, 6 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 7 Dilruwan Perera, 8 Rangana Herath (capt.), 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lahiru Kumara, 11 Lakshan Sandakan

Imrul and Sabbir are the likeliest batsmen to enter the XI, but there could also be a bowling change in the offing. Subashis Roy claimed only 1 for 137 in Galle, so it is possible Taijul Islam replaces him. Liton Das has been ruled out after suffering a fractured rib while batting in the nets on the eve of the game. That means Mushfiqur Rahim will take the gloves again.

Bangladesh (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Imrul Kayes, 4 Mosaddek Hossain, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mehedi Hasan, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Kamrul Islam Rabbi/Rubel Hossain

Pitch and conditions

This track may be a little more batting friendly than the usual P Sara surfaces, but expect regular breakthroughs nonetheless. Daily pre-monsoon thunderstorms in Colombo may also make an appearance - evening sessions are particularly vulnerable.

Stats and trivia

  • Each of the last 14 Tests in Sri Lanka have yielded a result

  • Rangana Herath is three wickets shy of a first-class tally of 1000

  • Bangladesh's three previous Tests at this venue have ended in innings defeats - their lowest Test total of 62 coming here in 2007

  • Mushfiqur has scored 441 runs at an average of 88.20 in 2017. He needs only 51 further runs to make this his most successful batting year.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harshan on March 15, 2017, 6:33 GMT

    I guess this was written before the master-stroke of leaving Lahiru Kumara out of the squad, and the decision to opt for mediocrity by selecting Karunaratne again.

  • ruwanc6294721 on March 15, 2017, 4:41 GMT

    Teams batting first have won seven while batting second have won nine. So BD should not worry about toss. But as a SL fan i like to see BD winning the toss and batting first.

  • Chew on March 15, 2017, 4:20 GMT

    Hey BD guys, you have a great chance here.. SL is batting first and NO fast bowler on this pitch .. All the best..

  • Manik on March 15, 2017, 3:35 GMT

    After winning the toss Mushfiq should choose to bat. And need to bat 4 to 5 session. Even after that BD may loose; but game will be interesting.

  • NAWSAD on March 15, 2017, 3:29 GMT

    This overhyped test would be ended by 3 days.SL would take the sereis by fuss..whoevere plays or not will not make any difference for losing bd within 3days..

  • Sparsha on March 15, 2017, 3:29 GMT

    Hello Bangladesh..Good luck for winning hearts. Winning match is out of reach.

  •   Md Abdul Hami Khan on March 15, 2017, 3:23 GMT

    I don't think that Bangladesh will do better than the 1st test. If they do that will be unexpected.

  • Chew on March 15, 2017, 3:17 GMT

    @CRICFAN32106842 ppl dnt hate any cricket team. No one hates BD or SL or IND.. but they hate some comments made by some fans. Just imagine, if some one says AB is a world class batsman, do we have any argument with that? clearly NO coz he is a world class batsman. all agree. But after seen our Kusal Medis's 194 or 176 at Galle, if someone says Mendis is a world class batsman and he is going to smash all the bowlers in the world.. how do you feel?? Isn't that funny?? Another example, BD toured NZ and lost all the games, but same fans were still saying BD are world beaters. SL toured NZ and Won at least one ODI but that tour was so bad and all criticised SL cricket and we all say SL is poor. So i gave these 2 examples to point out the way BD fans comments here. Thats why they are prone to counter attack from other fans and feels all hates BD. BD is a good side now, but still thay have to do more to match their fans comments. Pls comments as world champians once you achieve it. You Will.

  •   WhySoSerious21 on March 15, 2017, 2:57 GMT

    How can you rule out Mominul ? This will be a brainfade instance of management again if they rule out Mominul...

  • Ashfaque Tauhid on March 15, 2017, 2:53 GMT

    By far the best Bangladeshi test Squad .. Go with Rubel ...No Rabbi... BD WILL WIN ... AGAIN RUBEL IS THE KEY ... BEST OF LUCK SELECTORS FINALLY THE DREAM COME TRUE... PLEASE ADD RUBEL IN LAST MINUTE CALL... The best 11 for 100th Test : 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Soumya Sarkar, 3 Imrul Kayes, 4 Mosaddek Hossain, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 6 Shakib Al Hasan, 7 Sabbir Rahman, 8 Mehedi Hasan, 9 Taskin Ahmed, 10 Mustafizur Rahman, 11 Rubel Hossain

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