Fresh off a series against Pakistan, Sri Lanka will take on Bangladesh in two Tests starting on Monday. For the visitors, nothing less than a series victory will be acceptable while the hosts will have to grit their teeth to try and survive.
What: Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka, 1st Test
Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
When: Monday, Jan. 27-31
Start time: 3:30 a.m. GMT/9:30 a.m. local time
Live on: Star Cricket, WillowTV, Geo Super
Weather: No weather worries, according to Accuweather. Although there will be a few clouds around, there will be plenty of sun, too.
It's been nearly three months since Bangladesh last played Test cricket. That was a two-match series against New Zealand in Bangladesh and the hosts fought valiantly for a series draw.
They managed a win last year, too, one of just four in the 81 Tests they have played. On paper, Sri Lanka should be favourites not just to win but to crush their hosts, but cricket is not played on paper.
Still, even in a head-to-head talent match-up, Sri Lanka will come up trumps. Bangladesh's Test squad is a relatively settled one and contains some exciting talents like Shakib Al Hasan, Tamim Iqbal. A team should never be over reliant on individual performances but if there is any sort of hope for Bangladesh, a large chunk of it rests with a few individuals.
Last year, the team managed one win, three draws and two losses in the Tests that they played. While that doesn't sound like much, it represents a step forward when it's put in the context that they have only been in Test cricket for a touch over a decade.
This is important because the tour will be shrouded in more scrutiny than usual with the position paper of the ICC set to be voted on at the end of the week, per ESPN Cricinfo. The paper proposes a promotion and relegation system which could see Bangladesh drop out of the top tier of Test cricket.
Such a solution might not be the worst for them to improve as a Test-playing nation, but Bangladesh will want to prove they deserve more than that.
For Sri Lanka, and in particular Angelo Mathews, it's a chance to show that they are growing under his captaincy. They need to prove that they can play the exciting brand of "island cricket" which made so many players famous.
Ajantha Mendis returns to the Test squad for the visitors, fresh off a stint in the Big Bash League, he replaces Sachithra Senanayake. Kithuruwan Vithanage has also been included in place of Lahiru Thirimanne who misses out with an ankle injury.
Sri Lanka are expected to walk away victorious. Bangladesh are expected to prove they are indeed worthy of a Test berth. There's much up for grabs for both sides and, if the pitch plays along, it could very well end up being a memorable outing.
Shakib Al Hasan is Bangladesh's golden boy. As one of the highest-rated all-rounders in the world, his place and performance is crucial. Whether that means salvaging some runs in the middle order or breaking partnerships when he's bowling, Al Hasan is a crucial cog in the Bangladesh Test engine.
Angelo Mathews had a fair time with the bat during the team's recent visit to the UAE. He averaged 103 with the bat and scored more runs than any of this teammates in the three Tests. As a captain and from a tactical perspective, he is yet to blossom, but he's certainly on the right track. Perhaps against weaker opposition he will finally come into his own.
Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal, Mominul Haque, Mushfiqur Rahim(w/c), Shakib Al Hasan, Mahmudullah, Nasir Hossain, Abdur Razzak, Rubel Hossain, Marshall Ayub, Sohag Gazi, Al-Amin Hossain, Robiul Islam, Shamsur Rahman
Dimuth Karunaratne, Kaushal Silva, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews(c), Prasanna Jayawardene(w), Dilruwan Perera, Shaminda Eranga, Rangana Herath, Suranga Lakmal, Ajantha Mendis, Kithuruwan Vithanage, Nuwan Pradeep, Vishwa Fernando
Stats and squads from ESPNCricinfo