The Sri Lankans have had a tough and grueling schedule since we played them
back in September. Tough tours in India and New Zealand, as well as the VB series
have produced a less-than-flattering ODI record of about 6 wins and 16 losses
from 22 matches. Still, with convincing wins against both South Africa and Australia,
the Lankans will be more than a handful for the Tigers even without the likes
of Murali, Vaas, and Atapattu.
There are 2 important factors in this series. One of them bodes well for the Tigers,
the other not so well.
The first is that over the last 20 + matches for the Lankans, their bowlers
have taken a beating. The Indians and Australians have all managed to regularly
punish the Lankan bowling attack and have done so with great success. In fact,
it can be safe to say that the bowlers have lost the majority of the matches
for Sri Lanka over the last several months.
The second fact of importance is that the Lankan batting has, for the most
part, been very good. They have often posted big scores behind the fine play
of Sangakkara, Dilshan, and Atapattu.
In short, Sri Lankan batting is strong; was never out of form and their bowling
has been dissappointing of late.
Our chances of success in this series will hinge (as always) on our top order
batting. It seems like a broken record, but it is nevertheless true that our
top 6 batsmen, must score runs without losing wickets quickly.
Without Vaas in the ODI series, the Lankan pacers do not, in my view pose a
huge threat to our batsmen. Malinga may be the single biggest threat, but as
our previous series have shown us, our top order are now fairly competent playing
against quality and speedy quicks. It is the spinners who will trouble us the
most. Even without Murali in the ODIs, the Lankans have enough spin to kill
us. Chandana, Jayasuriya, and others, will be enough to hammer us, if our boys
are not on their toes.
Our bowling is no doubt boosted with the return of Mortaza, and along with
Russel, we should have a swinging pair of openers who can bowl a tight first
12 overs or so. This will be crucial, for our spinners and backup bowlers so
that the Lankan batsmen do not have the platform to cruise until the 40th over.
Overall, chances are that we will and should play competitive cricket in all
3 matches, but a win will be hard to come by. Still it is a possibility that
can never be counted out at all.
As a final thought, any success in this series should not be discounted by
the claim, that Sri Lanka are fielding a '2nd string side.' A number of points
- The last time we played the Lankans, Murali and Vaas combined for about
2 wickets the entire ODI series. Murali had success in the Tests and will
be in the Test squad this time around as well.
- These players are old, and they will retire in a couple of years anyway.
- The replacement players probably have more ODI caps then many of our stalwarts.
And they probably have better stats to boot.
The final point I would like to make is that this series will take place in
all new venues. The Shaheed Chandu stadium in Bogra will host the first 2 ODIs
and the 2nd Test, whilst the Chittagong Divisional Stadium gets the other ODI
and first Test match.
The stadium in Bogra looks very classy, and day-night matches there under lights
should look very good indeed. Plus with a capacity of 20,000 and sold out tickets,
Bogura will not be a dull place at all as some may have feared.
Let us sit back and enjoy this series and wish both teams the best of luck.