Afghanistan’s Najibullah Zadran (left), celebrates after their match against Bangladesh in Sharjah on Tuesday. AP
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will battle it out for a Super 4 berth in their do-or-die clash at the Asia Cup in Dubai on Thursday.
Top two teams from each group will advance to the Super 4, and Afghanistan have already booked their spot with two back-to-back victories from Group B.
Both the Test playing nations have been smitten by the same rival Afghanistan, which has put their campaign in peril.
Both Lanka and Bangladesh will look to bounce back from the disappointment of their opening games defeat to remain afloat in the tournament.
Both Bangladesh and Lanka have come into the tournament on the back of series the loss and need a morale-boosting win. Lanka will be more desperate to avoid the embarrassment of an early exit being the hosts while Bangladesh will look to prove their mettle.
Both the teams Lanka and Bangladesh were disappointed by their batsmen. Lanka could manage to muster 105 While Bangladesh were rescued by Mosaddek Hossain’s blitz of 48 runs, which lifted them to a respectable total of 127/7.
Bangladesh have been bolstered by the return of captain Shakib Al Hasan and veteran wicket-keeper batsman Mushfiqur Rahman. To their dismay none of them could live up to the expectations.
But the way the Bangladesh batsmen crumbled like a pack of playing cards, they can make a few changes. The injury blow to Litton Das and Nurul Hasan has weakened the team, which was clearly evident. The only positive thing in the Bangladesh innings was a fighting spirit displayed by Mosaddek and Mahmudullah down the order.
Their pacers Mustafizur Rahman and Mohammad Saifuddin were put to sword by Afghanistan batsmen, particularly by Najibullah Zadran. Shakib and Mahedi Hasan were more economical, conceding 26 and 13 runs respectively. The absence of one more spinner in the side was badly felt at Sharjah.
One more spinner can be added to the playing XI in place of a pacer as the pitches in Dubai is more spin friendly. The pitch takes turn as the game progresses.
Sabbir Rahman can be included in the side to boost batting. He has the experience of 44 T20I matches. He will also fill the void for a leg spinner if Shakib decides to stick to three pacers.
On the other hand, Lanka are passing through transition. They lost two series prior to coming to this tournament. They are working hard to gel as a unit. They will have to put up a collective effort to move into the Supe 4 and keep their hopes alive.
Eight of their batsmen failed to get to the double-figure mark against Afghanistan. Only Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Chamika Karuratne could put up some resistance against Afghanistan.
If the openers Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis can give a good start and set the tone, Lanka have batsmen in the middle-order who can propel them to a good fighting total.
Lanka’s bowling is also a big concern as none of their bowlers could even stop the free flow of the runs. Matheesha Pathirana and Karunaratne conceded 16 and 20 runs respectively, bowling one over each. When frontline bowlers are thrashed so badly it puts extra pressure on the other bowlers.
They cannot figure out they should stop the flow of the runs or try and take the wickets. So, If Lanka want to fancy their chances of beating Bangladesh and advancing to the Super 4, they will have to put their act together in all the departments of the game.
A couple of good performance here and there will not be enough to take them through. Moreover in the Super 4, they will meet big boys like Pakistan and India.
With the World Cup barely two months away, the Asia Cup is the perfect time to test the bench strength and find the right combination in opening and bowling both.