By Champika Fernando in Galle
Sri Lanka will look to maintain their solid record at home when they take-on buoyant Bangladesh in the first of the two-match Test series starting on Tuesday (7) at the Galle International Cricket Stadium.
Sri Lanka has won each of its last five Tests at home, a perfect record they want to maintain no matter who their opponents are.
The match is of significant importance for either side as Sri Lanka look to restore its pride following a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Proteas in South Africa while Bangladesh eye to improve its less than impressive away record against their inexperience hosts.
The tourists have won just three of its 45 matches away from home but they have shown a considerable improvement during the last two years.
Sri Lanka are under-strength with skipper Angelo Mathews out with injury which leaves the much stronger tourists with their best chance to catch the Sri Lankans off-guard but stand-in-skipper Rangana Herath is very much confident in maintaining their impressive record at home. Sri Lanka whitewashed Australia 3-0 at home in last August, a feat achieved for the first time against the men from Down Under.
“After we beat Australia 3-0 our confidence was sky high. Also we have done well in Galle historically,” Herath said in Galle. “We have been doing our training very well. We are confident.”
Sri Lanka comes into the series after a dismal series in South Africa where they conceded a 3-0 defeat largely thanks to its inexperience batters failing to adapt to largely alien conditions, but they have been formidable at home. For an instance, Dinesh Chandimal and Dimuth Karunaratne struggled to make any impact in the South African series but at home both struck form.
Chandimal scored an unbeaten 190 against Bangladesh in the only tour match last week while Karunaratne struck a brilliant double century (212) against England Lions in the second unofficial Test—a huge confidence booster ahead of the tour opener.
“Good to see guys like Dimuth (Karunaratne) and (Dinesh) Chandimal back in form. They have scored some big runs in the last couple of weeks and that’s important for the team,” Herath said.
With Niroshan Dickwella earning a recall to the side following his recent limited over exploits, Chandimal has been relieved of glove work and will play as a specialist at number 4–a position long occupied by former great Mahela Jayawardena.
In Kaushal Silva’s absence Upul Tharanga will face the new ball with Karunaratne. Tharanga made an impressive return as an opener during the limited over series in South Africa and in Australia which has given team’s think-tank to consider the former opener to the vital position once again.
Galle holds a significant place for touring skipper Mushfiqur Rahim who scored his country’s maiden double ton when they toured Sri Lanka four years back. He was well supported by Mohammed Ashraful who scored a brilliant 190 as tourists batted out for a draw.
“It is always a nice feeling to have achieved something as an individual and team. But it is a new game, and it looks like a new Sri Lanka attack apart from Rangana [Herath]. We have to play our best cricket to compete with them. It is very important to start well as a team,” Rahim responded when asked about double century performance in 2013.
“They don’t have a lot of the senior players who were around the last time. We had few big players missing last time. Both teams have a chance to bring out a result. They know how to win at home, seeing how they played against Australia. We are ready to face a hard time, and I hope we can be competitive for the whole game, and not just three or four days,” he added.
Bangladesh’s chances have also being bolstered by the return of Mustafizur Rahman, the left arm paceman who has not played a Test since his debut series against South Arica in 2015 due to shoulder injury.
“It is a huge advantage. We have Mustafizur now with Shakib and Mehedi who have done well together already. The type of bowler he is, Mustafizur will make them work hard on this wicket. Many of them are going to play him for the first time, which we have seen is difficult for any batsman. We also have Taskin Ahmed, but we have to make sure to grab the opportunities that come our way,” Rahim who have also being relieved of glove work added.
With ample local knowledge behind them by way of head coach Chandika Hathurusinghe, batting coach Thilan Samaraweera and trainer Mario Villavarayan, the tourists will push hard for a historic win ahead of their 100th Test in Colombo.
Sri Lanka: Rangana Herath (capt), Dimuth Karunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Upul Tharanga, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep, Vikum Sanjaya Bandara, Dilruwan Perera, Lakshan Sandakan, Malinda Pushpakumara.
Bangladesh: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Liton Das (wk), Soumya Sarkar, Mominul Haque, Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah Riyad, Sabbir Rahman, Mustafizur Rahman, Taijul Islam, Mehedi Hasan, Taskin Ahmed, Mosaddek Hossain, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Subashis Roy, Rubel Hossain.