It is a knockout match, so perhaps we should ask the tough question. Is this a real rivalry? Pull on your criss-cross deerstalker hats, Sherlocks. Get your magnifying glass. Clasp your notebooks tight. We about to investigate.
Gunathilaka might say it was all just a little bit of fun, sir, and he didn’t mean anything by it. But then you can also see from the Bangladesh perspective, how it might have seemed a mockery.
If this sounds like grown men acting childish, like a little celebration being blown way out of proportion, like fans getting riled up over meaningless theatrics, or if you’ve got dumber reading this preview until now, all of the above are valid feelings
But we are chroniclers here at ESPNcricinfo. It is our job to present facts. Even when the facts are stupid.
But we’re in sports media, so I guess we should try hype this up. It could be close? If nothing else, these teams are evenly matched. Between Mustafizur Rahman, Taskin Ahmed and Mohammad Saifuddin, Bangladesh certainly have a more experienced seam attack. Sri Lanka perhaps have the better spinners in Wanindu Hasaranga and Maheesh Theekshana. On the batting front, Bangladesh have the experience of Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, and Mushfiqur. But the likes of Charith Asalanka and Kusal Mendis have prospered against Bangladesh in the past. There’s not a lot to separate the teams
Either way, whoever wins this game advances to the Super 4 round. Whoever loses returns home much earlier than their fans would have hoped.
(completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LWLLL
In the spotlight
Kusal Mendis has been in excellent Test-match form recently, before extending that to the shortest format, when he dominated Sri Lanka’s premier T20 domestic tournament this year, shortly before setting off to the Asia Cup. He seems to have been sent up the order to open the batting in this series. Although his T20I stats are otherwise modest, this is a position he enjoys, striking at 137 when he opens, averaging 32 (career numbers are 121 and 20). He is auditioning to play this role in the T20 World Cup in October.
Pitch and conditions
It seems likely that the match will be played on a used surface, which means it might be a little more spin-friendly than tracks we have seen at this tournament. Temperatures will be scorching – likely in the low 30-degree celsius range, even in the evening.
Sri Lanka might just go in with the same XI, despite the big loss against Afghanistan. They may consider bringing the in-form Ashen Bandara into the middle order, however, perhaps in place of Danushka Gunathilaka. Or they might move Gunathilaka back up to the top of the order, and leave Pathum Nissanka out.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Kusal Mendis (wk), 2 Pathum Nissanka, 3 Charith Asalanka, 4 Bhanuka Rajapaksa, 5 Danushka Gunathilaka, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Wanindu Hasaranga, 8 Chamika Karunaratne, 9 Maheesh Theekshana, 10 Matheesha Pathirana, 11 Dilshan Madushanka
Bangladesh have a batting quandary which could see them change the opening pair again. Mushfiqur Rahim was talked about as one of those options although he would have to agree to this unusual role. Bangladesh also could revisit their bowling attack.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Mohammad Naim, 2 Anamul Haque, 3 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 4 Afif Hossain, 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Mosaddek Hossain, 8 Mahedi Hasan, 9 Mohammad Saifuddin, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Mustafizur Rahman/Nasum Ahmed
Stats and trivia
- Sri Lanka have won eight of the 12 completed matches between these teams, but lost two of the last three.
“Our opening pair isn’t clicking at all. We are missing Litton Das who is injured. I am hopeful the openers can bat to a plan. You can get out trying to hit the first ball, but it hurts us when nobody shows the intent. I want to see the intent. I want to see the change in mindset.”
Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud, when asked about the possible batting improvements against Sri Lanka.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf