Thisara Perera: a vital cog in Sri Lanka's batting line up
Coming off a massive 215-run win in a low-scoring second and final Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka, Sri Lanka will seek to extend their dominance at the same venue in the first T20I on Thursday (15 February).
Interestingly, Sri Lanka, like Bangladesh, are without their first-choice captain: Angelo Mathews and Shakib Al Hasan are both recovering from injuries. While Mathews has been out of action because of a hamstring injury, Shakib, who has not sufficiently recovered from a finger injury, is expected to return to the side for the second T20I.
Sri Lanka will be led by Dinesh Chandimal, their Test captain who last featured in a T20I against South Africa in January last year. A lot will depend on his ability to steady the innings alongside Upul Tharanga, with the likes of Niroshan Dickwella doing the big hitting. Sri Lanka have also found a replacement for the injured Kusal Perera in Kusal Mendis, who is coming off a good run, including a career-best 196 in Chittagong, in the Test series.
In the bowling department, they have Jeevan Mendis, the leg-spinning all-rounder who last played a T20I when he turned out against South Africa in 2013. Sri Lanka have a mix of young talented spinners too in Akila Dananjaya, Jeffrey Vandersay and Amila Aponso. And with Suranga Lakmal rested, young pacers Asitha Fernando and Shehan Madushanka, who picked up a hat-trick on his international debut in the triangular series final which Sri Lanka won, have been given a chance.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, will be guided by Mahmudullah, and have a host of newcomers in their side. They have four uncapped players in Abu Jahed Rahi, Ariful Haque, Zakir Hasan and Afif Hossain. Bangladesh will rely on the experience of Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Mushfiqur Rahim, Sabbir Rahman and Mahmudullah in the batting department, while Mustafizur Rahman will lead the bowling unit, which also has Rubel Hossain, Mehidy Hasan, Mohammad Saifuddin and Abu Hider Rony, who is back in the squad after last turning out for Bangladesh at the ICC World T20 2016.
Sri Lanka hold a good record against Bangladesh in T20Is, having won five of the seven head-to-head encounters, but, importantly, Bangladesh have won their only face-off in Dhaka, in February 2016 during the Asia Cup.
Mustafizur Rahman (Bangladesh): Known for his incisive death bowling, the 22-year old paceman is one of the best in the shortest format of the game even if he has been a little below his best since coming back after a shoulder surgery. In 17 T20Is, Rahman has 27 wickets at an average of 14.92 with an economy rate of 6.16. The Sri Lankans will be watching out for his famous off-cutters, while he will hope to strike early and strike late with them.
Thisara Perera (Sri Lanka): The all-rounder's presence in the lower middle-order provides depth to Sri Lanka's batting. He is capable of hitting the ball long and hard and is a reliable finisher. He also provides his team with an extra bowling option, making him a valuable asset. In his 66 T20Is, Thisara has taken 48 wickets to go with 794 runs.
Bangladesh: Mahmudullah (capt), Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Sabbir Rahman, Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), Mahmudullah, Mustafizur Rahman, Rubel Hossain, Mohammad Saifuddin, Abu Haider Rony, Abu Jahed Rahi, Ariful Haque, Mehidy Hasan, Zakir Hasan, Afif Hossain, Nazmul Islam Apu.
Sri Lanka: Dinesh Chandimal (capt), Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera, Asela Gunaratne, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana, Shehan Madushanka, Jeffrey Vandersay, Akila Dananjaya, Amila Aponso, Jeevan Mendis, Asitha Fernando.