Sri Lanka prove too strong for Bangladesh
Mohammad Ashraful was left to rue his decision at the toss - on the sort of pitch where they had piled 300-plus the previous day, Bangladesh decided to field first and paid a heavy price as Sri Lanka, fired by some superb top-order batting by Kumar Sangakkara and Sanath Jayasuriya, piled a massive target before inflicting a heavy defeat.
Chasing an insurmountable target, Bangladesh never seemed like waging a battle although a fourth-wicket stand of 78 between Mushfiqur Rahim and Raqibul Hasan played a major hand in delaying the inevitable. For a while the duo played with patience, character even tackled smartly the spin of Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan. But eventually, Muralitharan got the better of their grit, effectively ending the Bangladesh fight.
Earlier the responsibility, once again, fell on Ashraful to play the multiple role of anchor, hustler and finisher. Yesterday, Ashraful had scored a composed century. Today, after his top edge was spilled by Jayasuriya, Ashraful went for a brash pull against a short ball from Dilhara Fernando. The umpire Simon Taufel thought the ball had brushed his gloves but the batsman started his walk with disbelief.
If Bangladesh meandered towards defeat, Sri Lanka always seemed formidable with the bat. Such was the dominance of the Sri Lankans that rarely did their run rate drop below seven. Much of the credit went to the opening pair of Jayasuriya and Sangakkara, who quickly got into the groove once they had gauged that they had nothing to fear from the bowling or the pitch. What unfolded over the next hour was a spectacular batting display that resulted in a 116-run opening partnership, which was the perfect platform for the other batsmen to build on.
It didn't matter that this was the first time in two years the pair went out to open. After the World Cup, this was the seventh pair Sri Lanka had tried out and it proved decisive as it was the first century opening partnership since the 2006-07 New Zealand tour where Jayasuriya had successfully paired with Upul Tharanga.
As Sangakkara caressed the ball to the boundary from close to his body, Jayasuriya cut hard, charged, pulled and hit at everything. Dolar Mahumud suffered the worst carnage as his second over was taken for 25 runs by Jayasuriya, which included two spectacular cuts on his toes past the point boundary.
Bangladesh's bowling was erratic to say the least. Apart from the dependable Mashrafe Mortaza and the left-arm spin of Abdur Razzak, the rest of the bowlers never stuck to the thumb rule of bowling to the fields. Time and again, Ashraful rushed to his bowlers, but as Sri Lanka's final total indicated, that didn't do much good.
Sangakkara took command after Jayasuriya departed, bowled trying to cut Razzak's spin. One of the highlights of the innings came in the 20th over, as Sangakkara clobbered five fours off Mahmud. The first ball was a wide, while the next one was smacked low by Sangakkara past mid-off. The next, a slower one, was swept to long leg for another boundary, after which he smacked one over the bowler's head for the third four. Mahmud had a chance to make amends, but made a mess of a caught-and-bowled chance the next ball. Sangakkara celebrated by sending the last two balls - both of which drifted down the leg side - for fours as well to speed towards his eighth ODI hundred and the second this year.
He accomplished that feat by pushing a single off legspinner Alok Kapali, whose first two balls were pulled for consecutive fours. He fell soon after, though - increasingly tired in the energy sapping heat, he miscued a pull to give Mahmudullah his only wicket.
But Chamara Kapugedera made sure the momentum was never lost, as he piled an intelligent 74, stitching important partnerships with Chamara Silva and Tillakaratne Dilshan. He was especially severe on Kapali, regularly stepping down the pitch to loft.
Sri Lanka now have the leisure of rotating the line-up in tomorrow's final group-stage clash against UAE, while Bangladesh will enter the second round with mixed feelings.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo