Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim and coach Chandika Hathurusingha examine the P Sara Oval pitch. AFP
Playing 100 Test matches for any country is a milestone achievement and Bangladesh the youngest Test playing nation having gained full member entry into the ICC in 1999 will mark that occasion when they play Sri Lanka in the second Test starting at the historic venue – the P Sara Oval today.
It is coincidence that such an important Test match is taking place at a venue which has a history from time immemorial. It was at the P Sara Oval that Sri Lanka played their inaugural Test against England in February 1982 and three years later recorded their maiden Test win over India.
Bangladesh already 0-1 down in the two-match series will have an uphill task trying to beat a Sri Lankan team which has bounced back from their heavy defeats in South Africa.
There were doubts before the start of the Galle Test how the Lankan team would recover from their 0-3 beating in South Africa where they were totally outplayed in all departments. But they have managed to get their act together and hit the winning trail again with their comprehensive win at Galle.
“The biggest mental factor is winning for a team and this team has it,” said Sri Lanka’s acting skipper Rangana Herath.
“We have won against Australia and now Bangladesh at home that is the mental feeling we have. In a team even if a player doesn’t contribute much if he exudes confidence in himself and of his team mates we can keep going forward.
“I am so happy that everybody contributed, the confidence level is high I am sure the boys will come back with the same mind set for this Test also.”
Asked whether Sri Lanka would spoil Bangladesh’s 100th Test match party, Herath responded by saying, “From our side this is just another Test match. We are planning to have a good winning mindset and a good Test match. It’s a good milestone for the Bangladesh players. I don’t think they will be under much pressure if they play their brand of cricket.
As a member of the Tamil Union club Herath has first hand information on the behavior of the Oval pitch. “Historically at the Oval there is a bit of bounce for the fast bowlers.
I don’t know whether this wicket will live upto that. I have played here a lot and my experience with the wicket is that towards the fourth and fifth days it will take spin,” said Herath.
Sri Lanka who were successfully playing five specialist bowlers at Galle have not finalized their 11 yet according to Herath and if one goes by the old dictum ‘you don’t change a winning combination’. Whether Sri Lanka will stick to that is a matter of conjecture. Even for Bangladesh they will also have some firsthand information on the pitch as their coach Chandika Hathurusingha began and ended his first-class cricket career at Tamil Union.
“The wicket looks pretty good. Here traditionally there is something for the quicks early on, but after that there will probably plenty of help for the spinners also,” said Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim.
“The wicket looks pretty dry as well so hopefully the spinners will come into play. We have spinners and quicks in our squad, so whatever we decide I think we need to bowl in the right areas more often than not, then the results will come.
“We couldn’t even play to half of our ability in Galle, which was very disappointing. We have to try to get the result in our favour in Colombo. We have to take every chance that comes our way. We weren’t sticking to the basics, so we must improve on those things. We now have some idea about the Sri Lankan bowling attack, so we just have to improve our basics,” he said.
Commenting on his country’s 100th Test match Mushfiqur said, “This is a historic moment for Bangladesh cricket, and a big moment for me as the captain. I was in Class 7 in BKSP (Bangladesh Institute of Sports) when we played our inaugural Test match in 2000. I have memories of that game. From that point, the dream began to grow about hoping to play Test one day.
“We may not have achieved as much in the last 16 years, but to be honest we have progressed and improved in the last two and a half years. We don’t get to play a lot of Tests each year; sometimes we go through months of break. We are hoping that this year will be better for us despite not starting well.”
Mushfiqur was happy that in Bangladesh now there is expectation for them to win every Test, ODI or T20I.
“There are expectations about every Test. Bangladesh cricket is in such a stage that they are expected to win a Test, ODI or T20. This itself is a big achievement, which inspires the players to give their best in the field. We didn’t fulfill our expectations in the last game but we will give our best in the next game. Our main target will be to play consistently,” Mushfiqur said.
The bottom line is the fickle weather could play a crucial part in deciding the fate of Bangladesh’s 100th Test.(Daily News)