Bangladesh have played four Tests this year, but all of them were away from home. The year started with the historic eight-wicket win over New Zealand at the Mount Manganui. But the early momentum has since subsided with defeats in the next three Tests, one against the Kiwis and two against South Africa.
The Tigers will now square off against familiar foes Sri Lanka. The two teams have played 22 Tests before, out of which Bangladesh have won only once, lost 17 times and the other four Tests have ended in draws.
Bangladesh’s only Test win over Sri Lanka came in 2017 in Colombo, which was also Bangladesh’s 100th Test match. At home, Bangladesh is yet to beat the islanders in Tests in eight encounters. They have lost six times and drawn two Tests.
Bangladesh’s recent Test record at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium is also quite poor. The host's last three Tests at the venue ended in defeats, including the embarrassing 224-run loss against Afghanistan in 2019.
But the hosts can also take some encouragement from the fact that both of their drawn Tests at home against Sri Lanka were played at the ZACS.
Unsettled Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is going through a catastrophic economic crisis, there is nationwide politic unrest, the government is on the verge of collapse and the military are on the streets to maintain some resemblance of order.
The Dimuth Karuratne-led Sri Lanka team has the extremely difficult task to zone out all the outside noise and focus solely on the task at hand.
In many ways, this series is also the start of a rebuilding process for Sri Lanka. This is their first series under new coach Chris Silverwood, the first Test series without the recently retired pacer Suranga Lakmal and with eight new additions in the Test squad.
Wanting to give their countrymen something to enjoy during this dire situation could be a motivating factor for the Lankan team but the likes of Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews have their work cut out for them.
After five days of uncertainty, on Saturday, Bangladesh captain Mominul Haque finally confirmed that Shakib Al Hasan will play in the Chattogram Test.
Shakib was expected to miss the Test after testing positive for Covid-19 on 10 May upon returning from the United States. But just three days later he tested negative for the virus, joined the team in Chattogram the same day and on Saturday trained with the team.
Shakib is Bangladesh’s most successful bowler and the fifth highest run-getter against Sri Lanka in Tests. Without Shakib, Bangladesh played with four specialist bowlers in the two Tests against South Africa, and suffered for it. Shakib’s inclusion in the playing XI has increased Bangladesh’s batting and bowling depth.
Mushfiq, Mominul’s chance to regain form
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mominul Haque are in need of runs. Mushfiq has only one half-century in his last nine Test innings. The only time he breached the 50-run mark in this period was in the first innings of the Port Elizabeth Test in South Africa. However, just one ball after completing his 50, he got out by attempting a rash reverse sweep.
Mominul’s year began with a brilliant 88 in the first innings of the Mount Maunganui Test. But since then, he has struggled to score any runs. In South Africa, his scores were 0, 2, 6 and 5.
Mushfiq and Mominul are the backbone of Bangladesh’s batting order and the team needs them to fire. And there could be no better place than the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium for them to regain their form.
Mushfiq and Mominul occupy the first and second spots in the run-getters list at ZACS with 1301 and 1203 runs in 33 and 21 Test innings respectively. Mushfiq has one century and eight half-centuries. Mominul, on the other hand, has scored seven out of his 11 Test centuries at the venue, most by any batter.
Chattogram is known for producing great batting tracks. After getting bundled out for 53 and 80 in the Test series against South Africa, the hosts are expecting a batting paradise, with little to no help on offer for spinners.
Weather could play spoilsport as rain is in the forecast in all five days of the match.