Bangladesh, upbeat after its landmark win in the second Test, faces a Sri Lankan team without Angelo Mathews or Kusal Perera.
With the landmark win over Sri Lanka in the second Test fresh in the mind, Bangladesh will look to keep the momentum going in the three-match One-Day International series, starting with the first fixture in Dambulla on Saturday (March 25).
Bangladesh has been a competitive ODI side at home, but 50-over assignments away have been few and far in between. Its last ODI series – three games in New Zealand – was in December 2016 and it was blanked 3-0 then.
Sri Lanka knows the feeling all too well as it was whipped 5-0 in the ODIs in South Africa as recently as last month. Since 2015, Sri Lanka has only won series against opponents below it in the International Cricket Council rankings (Zimbabwe, West Indies, Ireland).
At the moment, Bangladesh is one place behind sixth-ranked Sri Lanka, which makes for an interesting tussle, with England and the top seven ODI teams as of September 30 this year directly qualifying for the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. If Sri Lanka can regroup after a disappointing Test and sweep the ODIs, Bangladesh might drop down to No. 8 below Pakistan. On the flip side, if Bangladesh wins all three games, it can leapfrog Sri Lanka in the rankings to No. 6.
Sri Lanka is still grappling with injuries. Angelo Mathews, the regular captain, continues to sit out, and Upul Tharanga will remain at the helm in his place. Kusal Perera, the wicketkeeper-batsman, has also been ruled out from the first two games after having strained his hamstring in Wednesday’s warm-up match against the Bangladeshis.
Bangladesh has no such worries, and has instead expanded its original 16-member squad to 17, drafting in Mehedi Hasan, the 19-year-old off-spinner. Mehedi’s call-up to the limited-overs side is the fruit of his labours during the preceding Test series, which he finished with ten wickets – the highest from either team. Though how he fares switching to a shorter, more punishing, format remains to be seen. He has done reasonably well in List A cricket, picking up 27 wickets in the same number of matches and could cause a depleted Sri Lanka batting line-up headaches.
In the high-scoring warm-up match, which Sri Lanka President’s XI won by two runs, Mahmudullah, Sabbir Rahman, Mosaddek Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza hit half-centuries. Mahmudullah can take heart from that performance, perhaps more than his teammates, as he has been under pressure since his omission in the second Test.
The ODIs should be competitive affairs, and with stakes high in terms of rankings, the results could go the way of the team that holds its nerve better.
Sri Lanka: Upul Tharanga (capt), Niroshan Dickwella, Dhananjaya de Silva, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara, Vikum Sanjaya, Thisara Perera, Sachith Pathirana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lakshan Sandakan.
Bangladesh: Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Imrul Kayes, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Sabbir Rahman, Mahmudullah, Mosaddek Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza (capt), Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Subashis Roy, Sanjamul Islam, Shuvagata Hom, Nurul Hasan, Mehedi Hasan.