Considering how hard it has been, historically, for non-Asian nations to win away series in the Indian subcontinent, it is very hard to believe that Sri Lanka have not won a home ODI series for 44 months. However, if one is aware of the travails that the island nation's cricket team has been going through in recent times, this statistic won't come as a surprise.
On Sunday, July 28, the Sri Lankans will have an opportunity to end this drought by winning the second ODI in the three-match series against Bangladesh. The first ODI turned out to be a one-sided contest as the hosts put away the Tigers without much difficulty. But Bangladesh are a side that can never be taken lightly. If they bat first, things could get much more complicated for the Sri Lankans.
Post-Malinga Lankan team
This match is important from another point of view. Lasith Malinga retired from ODI cricket after the first game. So, this match, in a way, begins a new era for the Sri Lankan team – one where they don't have their best ODI bowler to provide breakthroughs. This could prove to be a big factor in the match itself.
The Sri Lankan bowling, without Malinga, looks devoid of much threat. The likes of Lahiru Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep and Kasun Rajitha are good bowlers but none of them is going to give the visitors sleepless nights. Even when it comes to spinners, Lakshan Sandakan and Akila Dananjaya are exciting options but yet to establish themselves as consistent performers.
Improvements in batting
If Sri Lanka have to win, they will have to rely on their batsman. This is where things are looking good. Angelo Matthews, the senior pro in the side, has got his form back while Kusal Perera is finally putting his oft-mentioned talent to good use. With Kusal Mendis also looking in reasonably good touch, the middle-order looks decent.
However, the openers are still a bit of a worry. Dimuth Karunaratne needs to produce some good scores to secure his place as the captain. His partner, Danushka Gunathilaka, is even more vulnerable.
In terms of the bowling line up, Bangladesh look to be on equal terms with the Lankans. While Mustafizur is the main threat and Rubel the experienced player, there aren't any other names that will bother the Lankans before the game.
So, it seems this match will be decided on the strength of the performances from the bat. The Bangladeshis seem to have a bit of an advantage in that department. They have become quite proficient at chasing in recent times and players such as Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim, Mahmudullah and Soumya Sarkar have proven their quality over the years. They could again spoil the party for the Sri Lankans.