Shakib boost for Bangladesh in spin-friendly Chattogram against buoyant Sri Lanka

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Big picture – Chattogram won’t be like Sylhet at all

For the second Test series in a row between these teams, Sri Lanka’s seamers are defining the contest. In 2022, it had been Asitha Fernando and Kasun Rajitha who claimed 24 wickets between them in the two-match series in Bangladesh. This time, Sri Lanka go to Chattogram with their quicks having taken all 20 wickets in Sylhet – the first time a Sri Lanka pace attack has achieved this since 1986.

Beyond the big win in Sylhet, Sri Lanka’s having found a lower-middle-order batter who has found immediate success at the top level – Kamindu Mendis – will buoy them further.

It seems unlikely, however, that the pitch in Chattogram will much resemble the moist seam-conducive surface that Sri Lanka stomped to a four-day victory on. Pitches in Chattogram tend to be much better for batting, and it is the spinners who tend to prosper there. On that front, Bangladesh will feel they have Sri Lanka covered.

The return of Shakib Al Hasan from the eye complaint that saw him unavailable for the tour so far will give them the most confidence. Not only is Shakib among their best batters, he is also vastly experienced as a bowler on the Chattogram deck, having claimed 64 wickets across 19 Tests there – by a distance the most for any bowler at this venue. With him are Taijul Islam, who has the second-highest Chattogram wicket tally of 47, and Mehidy Hasan Miraz, who is third with 34.

Sri Lanka’s main spinner Prabath Jayasuriya, meanwhile, will be playing only his fourth Test overseas, and has four career wickets away from home. Offspin-bowling allrounder Ramesh Mendis, who is the likeliest to come in to the XI if Sri Lanka opt for a second frontline spin option, is even more inexperienced overseas, having played just two away from home.

Sri Lanka have never lost a Test in Bangladesh, and such was the margin of victory in Sylhet that they will begin the second Test with some confidence. Bangladesh will think of the game in Sylhet as something of an aberration, however. In Chattogram, with Shakib in their ranks, they will feel – and be, possibly – a different team entirely.

Form guide

(Completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WWLLW
Bangladesh LLWWW

In the spotlight – Shakib Al Hasan and Kamindu Mendis

Shakib Al Hasan turns heads wherever he goes of course, but the freshly elected member of parliament from the Magura constituency might be especially worth keeping a close eye on in this match. It’s not only his first international as an MP, it’s also his first game against Sri Lanka since he had appealed for – and earned – a timed-out dismissal against Angelo Mathews in the ODI World Cup. Mathews slammed Shakib and Bangladesh for making that appeal, and echoes of the anger it caused at the time were present through the course of the limited-overs series. If Shakib sees value in pushing Sri Lanka’s buttons again, it seems unlikely that his new status in Bangladesh’s legislature will stop him from stirring more controversy.

Three Test innings into his career, Kamindu Mendis has scores of 64, 102, and 164. Though he burst into the international cricket consciousness as a fingerspinner who could operate with either arm, his batting has always been his primary suit. And since he debuted for Sri Lanka in 2018, he has clearly taken his batting up several levels, improving his ability to deal with the moving ball in particular, a skill that served him nicely on the spicy deck in Sylhet. There will be greater tests in store for him, as oppositions study his game and design strategies to exploit his weaknesses. But he seems set now to keep that spot in the lower-middle order during what is a relatively busy Test year.

Pitch and conditions

Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium has Bangladesh’s best batting pitch. Batting first, sides have averaged 380 in the last five Tests here. The weather is likely to be warm, with the odd chance of a shower on days one and five.

Team news

Shakib will likely displace Shahadat Hossain in Bangladesh’s XI. Nahid Rana’s pace is exciting but whether he will be effective on Chattogram’s generally placid surface is a question Bangladesh will consider. Hasan Mahmud could be an option for them.

Bangladesh (possible): 1 Mahmudul Hasan Joy, 2 Zakir Hasan, 3 Najmul Hossain Shanto (capt), 4 Mominul Haque, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Litton Das (wk), 7 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Shoriful Islam, 10 Khaled Ahmed, 11 Nahid Rana/Hasan Mahmud

With Rajitha out with a back injury, Sri Lanka will likely bring Asitha straight into the XI, partnering him with left-arm quick Vishwa Fernando. If one of the seamers from Sylhet has to miss out, Lahiru Kumara is the likeliest to be omitted in favour of another spinner.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karuanaratne, 2 Nishan Madushka, 3 Kusal Mendis (wk), 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva (capt), 7 Kamindu Mendis, 8 Ramesh Mendis, 9 Prabath Jayasuriya, 10 Asitha Fernando, 11 Vishwa Fernando

Stats and trivia

  • The three most recent Tests between these teams in Chattogram have all ended in draws
  • Asitha claimed 13 wickets at an average of 16.61 on his last trip to Bangladesh, though his figures in Chattogram were 3 for 72
  • Following his 87 not out on day four of the first Test, Mominul Haque needs 25 to complete 4000 career Test runs. He will be the fourth Bangladesh batter to the milestone – behind Mushfiqur Rahim, Tamim Iqbal and Shakib – if and when he gets there

Quotes – everyone’s talking about Shakib

“It looks like he has lost weight. He’s been training. He has had a good BPL. He’s had a good start to the Dhaka Premier League. He’s happy and that’s the only place we want Shakib. We want him happy.”
Nic Pothas, standing in as head coach for Chandika Hathurusinghe, on Shakib’s return to the Test side

“Why should I talk about him? He’s not in my team.”
Sri Lanka captain Dhananjaya de Silva, when asked to say something on Shakib

Andrew Fidel Fernando is a senior writer at ESPNcricinfo. @afidelf

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