Akila, Chandimal absence gives slight edge to Bangladesh

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Bangladesh and Sri Lanka will add another chapter to their rivalry when they meet in the Asia Cup opener in Dubai on Saturday. One needs to look no further than the last time these two teams met, in the Nidahas Trophy, which was marred by a few incidents, to realise just how intense and fierce competition between the two sides has become. Which is why neither team will settle for anything less than a win, especially as Afghanistan, who have become increasingly competitive in limited-overs cricket, are themselves strong contenders to make the Super Four stage.
Sri Lanka have had the better of Bangladesh in 2018, beating them in a tri-nation ODI tournament final in January, and a Test and T20I series in February. But Bangladesh’s twin victories over Sri Lanka, both in tight games, in the Nidahas Trophy, won’t soon be forgotten. They tasted further success on tour in the West Indies, where all five core members of the team – Tamim Iqbal, Shakib Al Hasan, Mashrafe Mortaza, Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim – fared quite well and Liton Das struck a splendid half-century in the deciding T20I in Florida. Mustafizur Rahman and Mehidy Hasan, two key components, have also shown good form with the ball, but then some of the younger batsmen have work to do.
Sri Lanka were hit slightly hard when they lost an ODI series to South Africa at home, after having crushed them in the Tests. Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga were especially disappointing making 86 and 93 runs in five matches respectively. That will be of some concern as Sri Lanka can ill-afford a weak top-order.
Akila Dananjaya is likely to miss the first two matches on account of the birth of his child. The 24-year old spinner tormented South Africa with a six-for in the fifth ODI and was the leading wicket-taker of the series with 14 scalps. Sri Lanka have already lost Dinesh Chandimal and Danushka Gunathilaka to injuries.These absences may give Bangladesh a slight edge, but their batsmen still need to find a way through the middle overs, where Dilruwan Perera can be especially potent with his accurate offbreaks. But, as Tamim said two days before the match, the Dubai heat would make this a battle of will more than anything else.