Pitch report: Shere Bangla Stadium, Dhaka
Ends: Ispahani End, Aqua Paints End
Test History: 11 matches (9 away wins, 2 draws)
Tosses: 7 batted first (4 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw), 4 bowled first (2 win, 1 loss, 1 draw)
The stadium, which gets its name from the ‘Tiger of Bengal’ Abul Kashem Fazlul Huq, a renowned Bengal leader and freedom fighter from the 1940s, is the official home of Bangladesh cricket. It is situated in Mirpur, roughly 10 kilometres from the centre of Dhaka.
In a move which stirred up a fair bit of resistance, the BCB shifted its headquarters in 2005 from the Bangabandhu National Stadium, a multi-sports complex in the heart of the city, to the Shere Bangla Stadium, in order to have their own facility exclusively for cricket.
The move would appear to have been validated by the 20 or so simultaneous games of tape-tennis ball cricket matches which take place every morning and every evening on the grassless plot adjacent to the stadium.
The ground boasts probably the best drainage facility on the whole of the sub-continent, with an even slope of 29 inches from wicket to boundary. The stadium was upgraded in 2011, with the football floodlights replaced and the capacity increased to 50,000 ahead of the World Cup.
Last Time Out
Sri Lanka recorded a dominant innings and 248-run defeat on Bangladesh when the two teams met at the end of January this year in what was the previous Test match in Dhaka.
After being asked to bat first by the visitors, Bangladesh were dismissed for a paltry 232, with only Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim scoring half-centuries as the Sri Lankan seamers shared eight wickets between them.
Sri Lanka then amassed a mammoth 730/6, which included an unbeaten double century from Mahela Jayawardena as well as hundreds from Kaushal Silva and Kithuruwan Vitanaghe. Predictably, the Bangladesh spinners took five of the six wickets, with Shakib and Sohag Gazi getting three and two sticks each.
With the surface taking more turn as the match progressed, Dilruwan Perera’s off-spinners claimed five wickets in the Bangladesh second innings as the hosts were dismissed for 250 halfway through the fourth day.
Happy Hunting Ground
Having played 11 Test matches there, it comes as no surprise that Shakib has taken the most wickets and scored more runs there than any other player – 36 scalps and 936 runs respectively.
The wicket clearly favours spin, as you’d expect on the sub-continent, but several seam bowlers, particularly those with swing in their arsenal, have tasted success there. Zaheer Khan holds the record for the best innings (7/87) and match analysis (10/149) at the ground, while Dale Steyn, Neil Wagner, Tino Best and Suranga Lakmal have all been more successful there than would be expected.
On the run-scoring charts, Tamim Iqbal is second on the list having made a century and six 50s in the 10 matches he’s played there prior to the series against Zimbabwe, while Jayawardena – who scored 372 runs in only two matches – is the leading scorer among visitors.
“The fast bowlers were in really good rhythm, and they set it up for us in the first innings. They are delivering with the new ball and with the oldish ball, so I’m very happy with them at the moment,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews after the victory in January.
“Dilruwan Perera extracted bite and bounce from the day-four surface to finish with a maiden five-wicket haul in his second match, suggesting he can bring balance to the attack, just as he had lengthened Sri Lanka’s batting in their previous Test. Suddenly, in this win and the last one in Dubai, Herath finds himself providing support as the others go hunting for scalps.”
“We expect to face such deliveries at this level. We should keep this in mind next time we take the field,” Bangladesh Mushfiqur Rahim said of the unnerving bounce the Sri Lankan seamers extracted.
“There was lack of application. If we had been a lot more patient, they would have stopped bowling like that. It is not as if one can’t play a pull shot when six fielders are out, but one must play it within his limit, which he can control.”
Sunny, humid and warm conditions are expected on the first day, but for the remainder of the match it should be cooler with a light shower or two expected on days two, three and four.
While the majority of captains bat first if they win the toss here, bowling first isn’t the worst situation in the world to be in since there is normally some swing in the air and movement off the wicket on the first day at least.
Nevertheless, batting first, posting a big score and then making use of the deteriorating surface later on remains the most likely avenue to success on a ground where only two matches have finished in a draw.
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