Sri Lanka Will play against Bangladesh at 15.30 Local time in Unityed Arab Emirates. Whilst both teams will start a fresh from what they have displayed during the qualifying stages, there are similarities between the two sides. Both have a standout star allrounder – Shakib Al Hasan for Bangladesh, Wanindu Hasaranga for Sri Lanka. Both sides have decent pace attacks – Sri Lanka have the pace of Dushmantha Chameera and Lahiru Kumara (who both frequently breached 145kph in the qualifiying round), while Bangladesh have the relative experience and smarts of Mustafizur Rahman. Sri Lanka will feel, though, that their attack has the edge right now. They were easily the best on show in the first round, dismissing sides for 96, 101, and 44. And if mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana is fit enough to play (he had picked up a side strain in the match against Netherlands), Bangladesh will face the added burden of trying to figure him out.
Bangladesh, however, have the more reliable middle order, even if it hasn’t quite clicked as they would have liked so far. Sri Lanka’s most experienced batter is likely to be Kusal Perera, who has played 55 T20I innings; by comparison, Shakib, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Mahmudullah have played more than 90 innings each. In the first round, Sri Lanka’s attack was able to cover for their top order’s shortcomings, but Bangladesh are less likely to be rattled by Chameera’s short ball, or bamboozled by Hasaranga’s googly, than Namibia, Ireland, and Netherlands batters were.
Perhaps there are long-term trends to consider here too. Not a lot is expected of Sri Lanka this time, but they do have a tendency to over-perform at global events – something that held true even in the 2019 ODI World Cup. The same cannot always be said of Bangladesh. If they are to reverse that reputation, they’d do well to start with a win against a Sri Lanka side that is the least experienced in the group.
Mushfiqur Rahim has rarely missed the opportunity to make runs. He has 239 runs at a strike rate of 148 against Sri Lanka – easily his best record against any of the Super 12 nations. However, he hasn’t played a T20I against Sri Lanka since 2018, when Sri Lanka had such a different attack that none of Sri Lanka’s bowlers from the qualifying round were in the XI. How will Mushfiqur cope with this group? And while Shakib’s runs were enough to get Bangladesh through to the Super 12, they need their other senior batters to begin making their mark on the tournament, if they are to mount a good campaign.
When Sri Lanka arrived in the middle east, Lahiru Kumara was far from a certainty in the XI. But in four practice matches (two against Oman), and the first round, he has perhaps been even more impressive than Dushmantha Chameera. He has seven wickets from three outings so far in the tournament, but what’s truly impressive is his economy rate of 3.61. He is an improved limited-overs bowler now, having worked with bowling coach Chaminda Vaas over the past few months. His yorker has been particularly devastating over the past three weeks.
“We have been doing lot of work with Kumara trying to develop his skill. He was desperate to get a few things right. Particularly his stats in T20 cricket were not good enough for his immense talent. To his credit, he put in the hard yards. He did lot of work with our trainer Dilshan. I guess those things have stood him in good stead during the tournament.”
Sri Lanka bowling coach Chaminda Vaas on Kumara’s recent improvement.
Sharjah’s tracks tended to be low and slow, with help for the spinners, towards the end of the IPL. Temperatures are expected to be sweltering. As this is an afternoon match, dew is not a concern.
Sri Lanka are waiting on the fitness of Theekshana, who strained his side in the match against Netherlands. If he doesn’t play, off spinner Akila Dananjaya will likely come in.
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