Mirpur: Millions of Indian cricket fans will be praying for a Sri Lankan victory when the islanders take on hosts Bangladesh on Tuesday in their last league match, the result of which will determine India's fate in the Asia Cup cricket tournament.
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Sri Lanka have been knocked out of the Asia Cup. But they can still spoil Bangladesh or India's chances of qualifying for the final. Earlier this month, they knocked India out of the CB series after beating Australia in the tournament's final league game. They can ensure India go through this time by winning against Bangladesh, or inflict a second-straight knock-out, undermine another sterling Virat Kohli ton and another run-chase of 320-plus, by losing.
A Sri Lanka win will end Bangladesh's Asia Cup, one the hosts spiced up through their thrilling chase against India that kept their qualification hopes alive and prevented Sunday's India-Pakistan encounter from becoming a mere dress rehearsal for the final. They fought hard against Pakistan, won memorably against India by embarrassing a weak bowling attack and can't be written off against a Sri Lanka team yet to recover from sizable defeats. Bangladesh will go through if they win; even if they tie with India on points, they're through by virtue of having beaten them earlier.
For Sri Lanka, a team that beat South Africa at home twice in the ODI series in January and won against Australia four times in the CB series, failing to make it to the final of a tournament they've traditionally done well in represents a setback. Sri Lanka will be desperate to salvage some pride, Bangladesh to display some consistency in winning against superior teams, not merely challenging them.
In 29 tournaments of three teams or more that Bangladesh have participated in, they've only made it to the final twice - the latest was a tri-series final at home where Sri Lanka took the title in a close finish. A win tomorrow will mark their most impressive performance in a multi-team tournament, and what better place to deliver that than at home in front of a packed house, also the venue for the final.
Bangladesh: WLLLL (most recent first)
Sri Lanka: LLLWL
In the spotlight
Nasir Hossain: Only 20, he has been the find of the season for Bangladesh. Spunky in the middle order, more than handy as an offspinner and a livewire in the field, Nasir has infused this Bangladesh team with plenty of life and enthusiasm. He helped give Bangladesh a realistic chance of beating Pakistan and stayed through to almost the end against India, both those innings part of a consistent run in ODIs. Sri Lanka will have their first taste of Hossain on Tuesday.
Dinesh Chandimal: He looks good to take over from Kumar Sangakkara as Sri Lanka's next long-term wicketkeeper-batsman - he's already done that in Tests. Along with Lahiru Thirimanne, he is Sri Lanka's next big batting hope. His last three outings haven't been good, however, with scores of 5, 13 and 0, all in losing causes. Bangladesh present an opportunity for a recovery.
Bangladesh will be without their seamer Shafiul Islam, who is out for 10 days with a shoulder injury. They have drafted in seamer Abul Hasan in the squad. Whether or not he'll play in the XI, as Shafiul had done, remains to be seen. They have another medium-fast option in Nazmul Hossain.
Bangladesh XI (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Nazimuddin, 3 Jahurul Islam, 4 Nasir Hossain, 5 Shakib Al Hasan, 6 Mushfiqur Rahim (capt & wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mashrafe Mortaza, 9 Abdur Razzak, 10 Nazmul Hossain, 11 Shahadat Hossain.
Will Lasith Malinga play? Or will Sri Lanka give another bowler a go? They'll be eager to win and won't be taking Bangladesh lightly. It is likely they will go in with their best XI.
Sri Lanka XI (possible): 1 Mahela Jayawardene (capt), 2 Tillakaratne Dilshan, 3 Kumar Sangakkara (wk), 4 Dinesh Chandimal, 5 Lahiru Thirimanne, 6 Upul Tharanga, 7 Farveez Maharoof, 8 Nuwan Kulasekara, 9 Seekkuge Prasanna, 10 Lasith Malinga/Shaminda Eranga, 11 Suranga Lakmal.