Sri Lanka can ill afford slip-ups

Sri Lanka will play for a spot in the triangular One-Day International series final when they take on Bangladesh in the last round-robin match in Dhaka on Thursday (January 25).

Although the safest passage to the final will be a victory, Sri Lanka can also scrape past Zimbabwe on net run-rate should they manage to keep Bangladesh to a narrow victory. Both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, who have wound up their league engagements, are locked on four points. Sri Lanka’s net run-rate is -0.989, while Zimbabwe’s is -1.087.

The hosts will ensure that a ticket to the final won’t come easy for Sri Lanka. With two bonus point wins in their first two games, Bangladesh were already through to the final, yet they didn’t let their intensity drop in their previous game against Zimbabwe on Tuesday and sailed through with another big victory. That is exactly what they will aim to do when they face Sri Lanka for a second time at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.

Going by his contributions in the previous game, Thisara Perera, the senior allrounder, will have a big role to play. He took four wickets and then smashed a brisk 39 not out to power his team to a comfortable five-wicket win over Zimbabwe. Nuwan Pradeep also impressed with three quick wickets and will have to be on the mark if Sri Lanka are to keep Bangladesh at bay.

Spinners will also have a role to play on a wearing surface at the only venue for all games in the series. They took a total of 10 wickets in the previous game.

Shakib Al Hasan, who has bagged the man of the match twice in three games, picked up 3 for 34 with his left-arm spin. He also scored 51 to complement Tamim Iqbal’s patient 76 and ensure Bangladesh had enough on the board despite a poor middle order show.

The visitors will have to work a way around the talismanic allrounder. Apart from that, Sri Lanka’s bowlers will have to contend with a line-up that has found ways to win against the best of teams in home conditions.

Bangladesh’s bowlers are not an easier proposition to negotiate either. Kusal Perera’s injury-enforced absence will only make the task more challenging for the visitors.

Perera, who suffered a side-strain, had scored 80 in Sri Lanka’s defeat to Zimbabwe last week, and a crucial 49 in a winning cause in their last game. His absence up the order will hurt the visitors. Dhananjaya de Silva has been called up as replacement. (Courtesy Wisden India)