Bangladesh vs. Sri Lanka: Stars Who Must Step Up Big in Asia Cup Clash

Gianni VerschuerenFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, right, plays a shot as Afghanistan's Mohammad Shahzad watches during their Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Monday, March 3, 2014. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

On Thursday, hosts Bangladesh will square off against Sri Lanka in the last round-robin match of the 2014 Asia Cup, with the final to be played on Saturday.

Sri Lanka have gone a perfect three for three so far in the tournament and will be looking to complete the sweep as they prepare to take on Pakistan in the final.

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Bangladesh meanwhile have been held winless so far and would love to win at least one match for the countless fans that will be present on Thursday.

While this fixture shouldn't even be close on paper, every match needs to be played and while the Sri Lankans will be playing with one eye on the final, the home side will be very motivated to come away with the win.

These are the players that will have to at their best if their respective teams are to win the final 2014 Asia Cup round-robin fixture:

Kumar Sangakkara, Sri Lanka

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

In three matches, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper/batsman has scored a total of 246 runs.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Unsurprisingly, those 246 make Sangakkara the current tournament leader, and the experienced left-handed batsman will be looking to build on those numbers going into Saturday's final.

None of the bowlers he has faced so far have been able to lay on a hand on him, and fans will be expecting no different on Thursday. Sangakkara's prolific form is expected to carry over, perhaps putting too much pressure on the wicketkeeper's shoulders.

Then again, as @OptaJim points out, Sangakarra has been performing admirably for some time now:

Mominul Hague, Bangladesh

Hague was the only Bangladesh player to bowl at an economy rate of under five against Pakistan, finishing with 4.11 and taking two wickets in nine overs. With Sangakarra and the powerful Sri Lanka attack on the schedule, that spells trouble for Bangladesh.

As thrilling as their bout with Pakistan was, you could hardly call it a display of good bowling. The thought of that same lineup locking horns with Sri Lanka is frightening, and Bangladesh will need Hague to be at his very best if they want to have any chance of slowing down Sri Lanka's batsmen and winning this match.

Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

It's a different story for Sri Lanka's bowlers, with Mendis and Thisara Perera coming off their most dominant performance yet, finishing with economies of 1.57 and 2.90 respectively while each taking three wickets against Afghanistan.

BBC's Nikesh Rughani is willing to call this group the strongest in the entire tournament:

The off-spin bowler is enjoying a fine tournament and seems to be peaking at just the right time, going into Saturday's final. This last match against Bangladesh could serve as an excellent dress-rehearsal, and with Bangladesh's weak bowling, the team might be looking to come out and attack with their batting early and often.

Mushfiqur Rahim

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Perhaps the only member of team Bangladesh that has truly been able to impress this tournament, Rahim will be looked at to be the ultimate difference maker for his team as both its captain and its most productive player.

His unbeaten 51 against Afghanistan was impressive, as were his 117 runs against India, and Bangladesh will need a similar performance against this strong group of bowlers if they want to give their home fans a reason to celebrate.