After a brief lull, World Test Championship 2023 cricket returns with Bangladesh hosting Sri Lanka for a two-Test series beginning at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium here on Sunday.
The matches could prove to be a turning point for both sides, with Sri Lanka desperate to make a bid to move up the standings, and Bangladesh eager to make the most of the opportunity to climb from the eighth position they find themselves in on the nine-team table.
This will be the first assignment for new Sri Lankan head coach Chris Silverwood after he stepped down as England’s chief coach in the wake of the Ashes debacle. He takes over from Mickey Arthur, who enjoyed a successful tenure with the Sri Lankan team. Silverwood is supported by assistant Naveed Nawaz, who himself put his name forward for the top role.
A number of fringe Sri Lankan players could get the opportunity to impress the selectors as several players are either injured or have retired. In fact, Suranga Lakmal’s retirement could open the door for new faces to find their names on the team sheet when the captains meet for the toss.
Lahiru Thirimanne has requested three months paternity leave, Pathum Nissanka is recovering from injury, while Charith Asalanka has been told to focus on limited-overs formats. Who accompanies Dimuth Karunaratne at the top of the order remains a big question for the tourists given the absent players, with Oshada Fernando potentially the man to move up, according to ICC. The uncapped Kamindu Mendis, who made his name as an ambidextrous spinner, may wind up in the playing XI more for his batting, after a blazing domestic first class season.
On the Bangladesh side, a long-awaited Shakib Al Hasan’s return will take a little longer after the world No.4 all-rounder tested positive for Covid-19, with hopes that he will be available for the second match in Mirpur. Mehidy Hasan Miraz is also out, with pace spearhead Taskin Ahmed also injured after suffering a shoulder injury in South Africa.
It will be a Test debut for Rejaur Rahman Raja and Shohidul Islam should they be selected.
The teams played out a run-fest at the same ground in 2018, with Sri Lanka compiling 713/9 declared after the home side put up 513 across days one and two.
Kusal Mendis (196) and Dhananjaya de Silva (173) put up a second wicket partnership of 308 to ensure the tourists kept up in the match, with Roshen Silva (109), Dinesh Chandimal (87) and Niroshan Dickwella (62) all relishing in the conditions.
Roshen is the only member of the five not to return for the 2022 series, with Dimuth Karunaratne, Sri Lanka’s form batter of the 2023 WTC cycle, who made a duck in the match.
As will be the case on Sunday, Shakib al Hasan was also not part of the team for their 2018 meeting. Mushfiqur Rahim (4932) and Tamim Iqbal (4848) are both approaching the 5000-Test run barrier, a first for Bangladesh cricket.