The Asia Cup continues on Thursday when the tournament heads to Sri Lanka for the first time for the opening match in Group B as the co-hosts Sri Lanka take on Bangladesh in what feels like a crucial game in the section.
Both these teams come in with a bit to prove in this format of the game, with their better days in it steadily looking behind them. Injuries are not helping either and whoever loses here will know they have to beat Afghanistan in their next game to stay alive.
If we go back 20 years then Sri Lanka would have been heading into an Asia Cup, and any other tournament for that matter, as one of the favourites to win it. In the last decade or so they have undergone something of a transition period but they are now in a position that when they get their best players on the park and have conditions in their favour, they can be a match for any team. They have the conditions here but not so much the best players.
Sri Lanka have been struggling to get their bowling attack on the park and usually building up bench strength would be seen as a positive but for a tournament of this kind and with a World Cup a matter of weeks away, the Sri Lankans would have been wanting to start blooding their strongest XI and get them working as a cohesive unit. You sense that any success they are going to have in this tournament will come via their batters.
This has been a seriously bumpy build-up to the Asia Cup for Bangladesh. They have been suffering with injuries for the last few weeks and the backdrop of the last few months has been the will he or won’t he captain the side saga of Tamim Iqbal. It certainly isn’t the ideal preparation for a tournament which Bangladesh would have been wanting to get their hands on and really leaves them with fine margins if they are going to peak for the World Cup.
The problem Bangladesh could have in this tournament is that they look weak with the bat and the ball. They are missing two key batters and a couple of bowlers aren’t in this tournament with them either so this will need a real siege mentality and everyone pulling together if Bangladesh are going to get anything from the competition. it will be interesting to see if Bangladesh just look to get players time in the middle here and target their match against Afghanistan as the one to win to go through.
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Sri Lanka are going to be without Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Kumara, Dilshan Madushanka and Wanindu Hasaranga, which it could be argued is their best three seamers and their star all-rounder. Kusal Perera is available after recovering from Covid.
There will be no Tamim Iqbal for Bangladesh in this match and there will be no Litton Das either after the latter was ruled out of the competition on the eve of it beginning. Anamul Haque is likely to replace Litton while Mustafizur Rahman is a doubt.
Matches in Pallekele are often high scoring affairs but there has been a fair bit of cricket on this ground recently with the Lanka Premier League having been played here earlier in the month. The pitch didn’t always play brilliantly in that tournament and with a bit of rain around there is no guarantee that it is going to play well here. Even if it does I just can’t get away from how weak this Bangladesh batting unit looks, particularly if Shakib Al Hasan doesn’t contribute what he normally would do.
There will be a lot of spin and slower bowling utilised in this match so the batters are going to need to put their own pace on the ball, which isn’t automatically easy with the ball potentially sticking in the pitch. That all makes me think that this will be a lower scoring contest than what we normally get at this ground. The run line for this one is up at 517.5 but that looks a little on the high side to me as I just don’t trust Bangladesh to push towards 250 which you would think they will need to win this match.
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