Asia Cup 2018: Bangladesh vs Sri Lanka Preview | 'The Tigers' take on 'the Lions' in campaign opener (Photo: Twitter)
The first match of the 2018 Asia Cup (the 14th edition of the tournament) will witness Bangladesh take on Sri Lanka at Dubai International Stadium in UAE on September 15, 2018. The two-week competition between Asia’s top cricketing nations has six teams split into two groups of three in the qualifying group stage, before two teams are eliminated and the other four teams progress to the Super Four stage.
Afghanistan are in the same group as the two combatants in this first match and while a loss does not mean that a team is out of the tournament, a win almost assures progress to the next round.
Sri Lanka enter the tournament as the eighth-ranked ODI nation with a rating of 80 points, one position below Bangladesh who are in seventh with 92 points. It has been a dismal 20 months of ODI cricket for Sri Lanka, having just nine wins from their past 37 matches.
While on paper a batting attack that consists of Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera, Kusal Mendis, Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews looks formidable, there seems to be a distinct lack of intent to stay at the crease for long periods of time.
So often have such players made positive starts to their innings only to be let down by poor shot selection when there has still been many overs to go.
If that aspect of their game can be improved, don't be surprised to see Sri Lanka still be in the tournament come the end of the second week.
Bangladesh enter the tournament with the taste of victory lingering strong after their 2-1 ODI series win over the West Indies in July and what a performance Tamim Iqbal has enjoyed, scoring two centuries and one fifty from his three.
While such momentous returns will obviously be difficult to replicate, if he can produce results that are half as good as those, Bangladesh look primed for a big tournament.
Players to watch: Mustafizur Rahman is Bangladesh's highest ranked ODI bowling sitting in position 17th. In eight matches in 2018, he has taken at least one wicket in every game. Despite an impressive ODI career batting average of 42.74, Angelo Mathews relishes playing against Bangladesh averaging 67.67. His innings looms as a key wicket for both teams.
Stat attack: Bangladesh have never played at Dubai International Stadium. Sri Lanka hold a dominant 36-6 record over Bangladesh in ODIs with two no results, whereas at neutral venues, the advantage is 8-0 in favour of Sri Lanka.