Another Gem In A Budding Rivalry

Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Another gem in a budding rivalry. The fans have a lot to cheer for in this rivalry

Another Gem In A Budding RivalryThe fans have a lot to cheer for in this rivalry

A bird's eye view that one of the many cameras deployed at the T20 WC was the only corroboration that the T20I between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka was being played in Sharjah. Green and red flags adorned the stands at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium with raucous cheers from Bangladeshi supporters who were in majority among the 70 percent permissible capacity on Sunday (October 24). The decibel levels soared through the game, creating an atmosphere that would've taken them back to Mirpur, only for the handful of Sri Lankan cheers ringing loud and clear by the end of the game as Sri Lanka pulled a rabbit out of the hat. They picked up a five-wicket win to leave scores of disappointed fans with their hands on their heads.

The passion is palpable among Bangladesh's cricketers and supporters alike every time Bangladesh don their national colours. Skipper Mahmudullah was seen wiping his eyes after Bangladesh's national anthem, while Mohammad Naim made quite obvious what that catch of Wanindu Hasaranga meant to him. There was also an incident in just the sixth over of the game that required the intervention of umpires and the Sri Lankans on the field. After ending a 40-run rebuilding stand, Lahiru Kumara and Liton Das had a go at each other when the latter was dismissed for 16. It was quite the sight with the batsman brandishing his bat at Kumara who wasn't one to back down either.

It is a rivalry that has intensified between the two sides since the Nidahas Trophy tri-series in Sri Lanka in 2018 – a series played to mark 70 years of Sri Lankan independence. Players from both teams were involved in pointing fingers among heated discussions. Sri Lanka were pipped by Bangladesh who then did the infamous naagin dance to celebrate their victory. A glass door of Bangladesh's dressing room was found broken after the game too. Such has been the intensity between the two sides that very little separates the sides. Since 2018, in T20Is and ODIs, Sri Lanka lead with 3 and 6 wins to Bangladesh's 2 and 4, while in Tests both have two wins each.

The sixth-over shenanigans spurred Sri Lanka forward who struck back within two overs for Shakib's wicket. Shakib, who had already scored over 100 runs in the tournament in three games in the Group stages was knocked over by Chamika Karunaratne. It brought to the middle the feisty Mushfiqur Rahim, who was the chief orchestrator of that Nidahas win too in 2018. Promoted up the order with some rebuilding needed, he was perfect foil for Naim, who dominated the second-half on the innings, while Naim did the former. Mushfiqur, for the record, since 2018 against Sri Lanka has scores of 66*, 6, 72*and 28 before today's unbeaten 57 off 37.

Rahim was clever with his plans and played to his strengths against Sri Lanka's fast bowlers, who had found ample success in their group games because of the extra pace, faltered by bowling too full. He had responses ready when the lengths were pulled back too. He took on the onus to negate Sri Lanka's biggest threat in legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga, sweeping anything full, bringing all his experience to the fore. He scored 37 runs in 28 balls against pace, while scoring 20 off 9 against spin. He added 73 runs off 51 balls with Naim that gave Bangladesh a strong total.

By no means were Sri Lanka out of the contest on a wicket that had exceeded expectations. Kusal Perera falling in the first over was a big blow, but Charith Asalanka made the most of the opportunity he got after failing to prove himself in the group stages after being picked instead of Dinesh Chandimal. Shakib was in Sri Lanka's way, as wily as ever, bowling the slower ones when he saw the batsmen using their feet. He made it tough to put deliveries away, eventually levying a double blow in the ninth over, breaking the 69-run stand between Asalanka and Nissanka as the decibels rose again with chants of “Shakib! Shakib” reverberating through the stadium.

Fortune favoured birthday boy Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who was put down by Liton, who faltered again to hand Asalanka another life as the batsmen used that to their advantage and stitched a game-changing 89-run stand. Rajapaksha, who had skipped breakfast because he didn't like what was on offer today, had a bout of dizziness amidst the stand, but went on after a break to score his second T20I fifty before falling for 53 off 31 with just 6 runs to win.

Asalanka was the aggressor in the powerplay early and thereafter even, scoring 32 of the 54 runs in the first six. He only upped the ante further alongside Rajapaksa, targetting the shorter boundaries and in just his fifth T20I scored a match-winning 80* off 49 – the highest individual score this season so far.

Mickey Arthur before the tournament had said the inexperience in their ranks could be a positive for Sri Lanka with the youngsters playing bereft the fear of failure and with the exuberance of youth. Asalanka's knock was the perfect illustration, with five fours and as many sixes. It was a game that was fought tooth and nail by both sides, but Bangladesh eventually were outdone by the bravado of a 24-year-old.

“The last couple of years we've been playing very consistent cricket in all three formats and credit to Sri Lanka who have been trying to rebuild as a team. They're also playing some good consistent cricket so whenever we meet in any format we try to win. Because they also have had success against us in the recent past because they have couple of legendary players who have retired from that era so they had to rebuild with a young side. Couple of these things motivate us because we are neck-to-neck so whoever plays better on the day they have an edge. And today they played really well,” said Mushfiqur, who played down the rivalry between the sides.

“It's not about rivalry. We are a rebuilding side and we're quite young and we've really started believing in our side. That's one of the reasons we've been competitive. Bangladesh and us are playing good cricket at the moment and whoever wins, will win,” said Rajapaksha, seeming to agree with Mushfiqur. Whether or not the intransigent supporters will agree is a different story.

That said, the rivalry between the two Asian sides augurs well for cricket in Asia. With India-Pakistan not playing each other often enough, there could be a new narrative that keeps spectators in the subcontinent interested, especially given the passion that contests between the two are riddled with.

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