CHITTAGONG: Bangladesh pushed Sri Lanka till the last ball before Anamul Haque hit a full toss straight up into the murky Sagarika sky and was caught, three runs short of victory. It was an apt end to a contest that had theatre from the first over. Superb catches by Nasir Hossain, Anamul and Angelo Mathews, the flashy 64 by Kusal Perera (and his equally flashy press conference) and some late drama enthralled a 15,000-strong crowd at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium. Sri Lanka have themselves to blame for the tense margin of the victory. Their batsmen mistimed the charge and threw away crucial wickets. More than 180 was possible on that pitch, but they have another crack at a big score on Friday.
Kusal held things together with intelligent partnerships with Dinesh Chandimal and a string of middle-order batsmen. With quick hands and a great eye, he looks to be the sort of batsman who can give Sri Lanka considerable firepower at the top. Seekkuge Prasanna is another interesting option, batting in the middle-order and bowling useful legspin. But he would have to work on his leading arm, which falls far too quickly in the delivery stride. Bangladesh’s main worry in T20s has been their bowling, both early and late in the innings. Mashrafe Mortaza bowled reasonably well but his death-overs bowling does not inspire as much faith. Rubel Hossain battles similar criticism, but he found the wide yorker to stifle the batsmen.
Their batting has been good off late, but they have to work on playing smarter shots to take advantage of the final overs. Sohag Gazi’s form would also be a worry, as the offspinner hasn’t bowled well against Sri Lanka in the Tests or in the first Twenty20. Though he is effective as an opening bowler and as a late-order hitter, he is inconsistent. The selectors would also like another look at left-arm spinner Arafat Sunny to lessen the workload of Shakib Al Hasan.
Tillakaratne Dilshan may have got out playing his favourite scoop in the first over itself. He has played well in Bangladesh in the past, and with big tournaments coming up, a significant contribution would be handy for confidence. Tamim Iqbal was out to a great catch by Angelo Mathews but he was looking good with his cuts and flashes, and even an upper-cut after charging the bowler. A fifty would be the perfect way to leave Chittagong, with Bangladesh having one eye on the ODIs ahead.
The home side would be interested to see how Sabbir Rahman shapes up as a middle-order batsman. He could replace Mithun Ali, with Anamul Haque donning the gloves. Mahmudullah could replace Gazi and there is also a case to play Mominul Haque and Al-Amin Hossain to boost their confidence ahead of the World T20. Sri Lanka wouldn’t want to concede a T20 for the sake of experimentation, and it was made clear by captain Dinesh Chandimal before the first game. But they might perhaps try Ashan Priyanjan and Angelo Perera, especially if both batsmen are on the selectors’ minds for the World T20 in March.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Shamsur Rahman, Anamul Haque (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Nasir Hossain, Farhad Reza, Mahmudullah/Sohag Gazi, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Rubel Hossain, Arafat Sunny.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Dinesh Chandimal (capt and wk), Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews, Seekkuge Prasanna, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Ajantha Mendis.
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