Bangladesh might field three pacers, and Najmul Hossain Shanto is likely to continue batting at No. 3
Left-arm quick Shoriful Islam has been included in Bangladesh’s 15-member squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka – the announcement came less than 24 hours before the start of the game on Wednesday, midway through the visitors’ only practice session in Pallekele.
Although it was not clear if Bangladesh would opt for his left-arm pace in the first Test itself, captain Mominul Haque has made it clear that pace would be crucial for Bangladesh in the series opener.
“I think our batting and pace bowling will be crucial. The pace bowlers with experience and those who are playing regularly, like [Abu Jayed] Rahi, Ebadat [Hossain], and Taskin [Ahmed] are more dependable,” Haque said. “We will have a pace-dependent bowling attack but it doesn’t mean we will lose the sting in our bowling.”
The big-built Islam shot into prominence last year after Bangladesh won the Under-19 World Cup, where he took nine wickets at an average of 15.77. He also did well in the domestic white-ball tournaments last year – 16 wickets in ten games in the Bangabandhu T20 Cup and four wickets in three matches of the 50-over President’s Cup – before being handed a T20I debut in New Zealand last month.
The six players from the 21-member preliminary squad who didn’t make the cut would remain in Sri Lanka, given that Bangladesh have a strict nationwide lockdown in place because of the Covid-19 situation, and no international flights are allowed to land the country until the end of April. In this group of six is offspinner Nayeem Hasan, who played both Tests against West Indies in February.
Hasan’s exclusion, though, was on expected lines as Bangladesh already have Mehidy Hasan and Taijul Islam in the squad. Given the greenish tinge on the Pallekele pitch, the visitors may opt for three pace bowlers, with either Shadman Islam or Saif Hassan opening with Tamim Iqbal.
The inclusion of Najmul Hossain Shanto suggested that he would continue to get chances at No. 3 despite poor numbers recently against West Indies.
Apart from Hasan, Bangladesh have also dropped Mustafizur Rahman, who is away playing in the IPL, and Soumya Sarkar for form, while Hasan Mahmud is out with injury. The others not considered for the first Test, but who are part of the 21-member squad, are Khaled Ahmed, Mukidul Islam, Shuvagata Hom, Shohidul Islam, and Nurul Hasan.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84