Lanka start clear favourites against Bangla

Published: Friday, October 6, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Mohali (Chandigarh):Former joint winners Sri Lanka start overwhelming favourites as they launch their qualifying campaign for the ICC Champions Trophy against Bangladesh here tomorrow with the clear intention of gearing up for the bigger battles ahead once the tournament properly gets going on Oct 15.

This will be the 18th one dayer between the two teams. The Sri Lankans have won 16 matches and Bangladesh only one.

Forced into the qualifying route thanks to the ICC rankings six month ago that saw them below the automatic sixth-place cut-off, Sri Lanka have a point to prove to fellow qualifiers and defending champions the West Indies. Both sides have done well in the recent past and are clearly unhappy at having to go through the grind of the qualification round.

Sri Lanka have been on a roll off late. Their successful tour of England early this summer saw them share the Test series and then thrash the hosts 5-0 in the one-day series.

To thereafter travel to India and have to qualify is galling, and the Islanders will be pulling no punches against Bangladesh tomorrow with a full-strength squad likely to take the field.

In a warm-up game against the PCA President's XI yesterday that they won by 84 runs, the Sri Lankan top order failed to get going but all-rounder Farveez Maharoof's strokeful 81 from 88 balls enabled them to post a challenging 267/8.

Openers Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga and the rest of the frontline batsmen made starts but it was left to Maharoof and medium pacer Chaminda Vaas (48) to see their side out of trouble with a 90-run seventh-wicket stand.

That, however, does not in any way take away from the quality of batting this Sri Lankan side has to offer. Jayasuriya scored a punishing century against England while skipper Mahela Jayawardene and wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara have been among the runs of late.

Former captain and comeback man Marvan Atapattu too showed signs of having recovered from a long-standing injury with a sedate cameo.

On the bowling front too, Sri Lanka carry too many guns for Bangladesh, who have never won a match in the Champions Trophy.

Against the PCA XI, wickets were evenly shared with as many as seven bowlers getting a go. This is a vastly experienced attack spearheaded by two world class acts in Muttiah Muralitharan and Vaas and can call on plenty of variety as well. Clearly Bangladesh, are up against it. Admitted coach Dav Whatmore recently, ''We are under no illusion but the Bangladesh team is capable and efficient of beating the best in the business. We have done it in the past and we can do it again.

''However, we have even more important things in mind than the Trophy or even World Cup. Of course they are also important but our main objective is to build a strong and competitive side over a period of time. That's where our focus will be when we take on the bigger sharks in the pool.'' ''We want to use the tournament as an opportunity to test our strength and showcase our talent,'' Whatmore had gone on to add.

On their star player Mohammad Ashraful's poor run, the coach hoped the batsman would strike form soon and added that anyway they were not looking at individual performances but the collective effort.

Skipper Habibul Bashar was of the view that if his team wins at least two of their three qualifying matches ''we will be then in an advantageous position.'' ''On a given day we can beat anyone. We've beaten both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the past. If we win two matches here (in the qualifying stage), we might just qualify for the main event,'' the captain said.

Teams:Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), Marvan Atapattu, Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Upul Tharanga, Chamara Kapugedera, Malinga Bandara, Tilakratne Dilshan, Farveez Maharoof, Chaminda Vaas, Dilhara Fernando, Ruchira Perera, Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan.

Bangladesh: Habibul Bashar (capt), Shahriar Nafees, Mohammad Ashraful, Aftab Ahmed, Saqibul Hasan, Abdur Razzak, Khaled Mashud (wk), Mehrab Hossain Jr, Mohammad Rafique, Rajin Saleh, Shahadat Hossain, Farhad Reza, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel.

Umpires: Daryl Harper and Steve Bucknor; third umpire - Simon Taufel and fourth umpire - Billy Bowden.

Match Referee: Mike Procter


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