Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild in tri-nation clash

Sri Lankan cricketer Upul Tharanga, right, and his teammates take part in a religious observance before leaving for Bangladesh, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Sri Lanka will participate in the tri-nation limited overs cricket series with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe starting Jan. 15. (AP)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe seek to rebuild in tri-nation clash

DHAKA: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe all have a point to prove when they battle each other in a tri-nation one-day tournament in Dhaka from Monday.
The home nation, without a coach, are licking their wounds from a disastrous tour of South Africa. Sri Lanka have just had their worst year in international cricket. And Zimbabwe are on edge after a thrashing by the Proteas that blunted their run-up to a crucial World Cup qualifying tournament in March.
The event, staged at Dhaka’s Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium, is Bangladesh’s first home engagement in more than a year, and follows three heavy ODI defeats in South Africa in October.
Bangladesh have become a strong one-day team in recent times, notably reaching the Champions Trophy semifinals last year. But they were brutally exposed by the Proteas, as defeats by 10 wickets, 104 runs and 200 runs highlighted how much further they have to go.
“This tri-nation tournament is really important for us. Everyone is upset after the South Africa tour. Now, if we can win this tournament, everything can be changed,” said skipper Mashrafe Mortaza.
The task has been made more difficult by the resignation of coach Chandika Hathurusingha, who chose to return to his native Sri Lanka. Hathurusingha makes his debut as Sri Lanka’s coach in this tournament.
The 49-year-old former batsman resigned in the middle of the South Africa tour, though the decision was only made public in December.
Former national captain Khaled Mahmud is in interim charge as team director, and the Bangladesh Cricket Board has yet to indicate when a permanent replacement will be named.
Hathurusingha travels to Bangladesh with his own problems, as his new team come out of a demoralizing year.
Former World Cup winners Sri Lanka won only five of 29 one-day internationals in 2017.
The country’s cricket authorities changed captain twice in six months after influential all-rounder Angelo Mathews stepped down in July, highlighting the turmoil in the national game.
Mathews has been re-appointed as Sri Lanka’s limited over captain ahead of 2019 World Cup, for which they were the final team to qualify.
Meanwhile underdogs Zimbabwe, who face Bangladesh in the first game of the tri-nation competition Monday, are looking for a lift ahead of hosting a World Cup 2019 qualifying tournament in March.
Last month they lost a Test in South Africa by an innings and 120 runs inside two days of what was intended to be a historic four-day day-night Test. The match lasted just 907 balls.
Zimbabwe will be boosted by the return of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, who have not played one-day internationals since 2015 and 2013 respectively.
Coach Heath Streak has indicated that Zimbabwe will devote more energy to one-day games, due to limited Test opportunities.
The three teams will play each other twice in the two-week tournament, which ends with a final on January 27.


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

Updated 9 min 32 sec ago
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah ‘is ready to play against Russia’

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST. PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.