Clinical Sri Lanka storm into final
As birthday bashes go, this was pretty special, with Sanath Jayasuriya bludgeoning Bangladesh into submission as Sri Lanka sauntered into the Asia Cup final. Kumar Sangakkara's elegant 121, just 24 hours after a century against Pakistan, was the supporting act, and with Muttiah Muralitharan at his supple-wristed best with the ball, Bangladesh were brushed aside by a massive 158 runs. Nazimuddin and Raqibul Hasan showed some defiance, but even against an attack missing Lasith Malinga and Farveez Maharoof, 333 was never on.
Some of the Bangladesh players were still in diapers when Jayasuriya made his debut, and they must have felt as helpless as babies when he celebrated his 39th birthday with the fluent shot-making and power-hitting that typified his halcyon years. He raced to a century off only 55 balls, and though it turned out to be a two-man show, Sri Lanka still had enough to pull off their fourth successive win of the tournament.
Having added 201 with Sangakkara in only 27.5 overs, Jayasuriya finally ran out of puff in the Karachi heat. A poor delivery from Alok Kapali was lofted to deep cover where Tamim Iqbal took the catch. There was scarcely any joy from the fielders, because by then Jayasuriya had pounded 130 off only 88 balls, with a heady rhythm of cuts, pulls and drives.
Sangakkara carried on though, having been reprieved by Kapali off his own bowling on 51. He drove beautifully down the ground and made good use of both the orthodox sweep and the slogged version. Occasionally, he would also come down the track and loft the ball over the infield, and Bangladesh appeared bereft of options.
When Jayasuriya lashed Mashrafe Mortaza's opening delivery past point for four, it appeared to be a sign of things to come, but with Shahadat Hossain bowling a maiden first-up, Bangladesh conceded only 20 in the first five overs. The trouble started after that, with Jayasuriya dusting off his pull stroke and driving over the infield with immense power.
Sangakkara wasn't to be left behind, piercing the packed off-side field cleverly occasionally, but after a while he gave up trying to keep pace. Jayasuriya was unstoppable. When the bowlers dropped short, he would pull over midwicket. If they were too full, the disdainful flick was unveiled. Too much width and the hoardings behind the point boundary were battered with short-arm cuts. And if all that wasn't punishment enough, he would also jump down the pitch before lashing the ball over the covers.
The half-century took only 31 balls, and when Abdur Razzak came on, he was taken for 19 runs in his second over. Two crisp fours off Farhad Reza and a single to long leg later, he had a century, the 26th of an illustrious career. Sangakkara, who had caressed some lovely drives himself, was the perfect foil, and Bangladesh's cause wasn't helped when Mushfiqur Rahim fluffed a catch behind the stumps off Razzak right after Jayasuriya had got his hundred.
His eventual departure, after slamming 16 fours and a mere six sixes, did stem the tide though, with the other batsmen unable to support Sangakkara. Mahela Jayawardene eased to 20 before pulling a long hop from Kapali to midwicket and neither Chamara, Kapugedera or Silva, could get going. Tillakaratne Dilshan was run out by a direct hit from Raqibul, and when Razzak finally sneaked one under Sangakkara's defence, Bangladesh had managed a comeback of sorts. But thanks to their openers becoming only the 18th pair to score centuries in the same game, Sri Lanka were nearly out of sight by then.
Bangladesh were notionally in the contest till the halfway stage of their innings, with Nazimuddin and Raqibul playing some fine strokes in the face of an imposing asking-rate. Nazimuddin took his time to settle, but then launched into some delightful cuts and drives. Ajantha Mendis, who had bamboozled the Pakistanis, was thumped for a four and a six, and only a miscommunication with Raqibul saw him run out when in sight of a half-century.
By then, he had already seen Tamim and Mohammad Ashraful, the side's leading lights, depart. With Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Kulasekara giving nothing away early on, Tamim quickly became restless, and a tame nibble at a Vaas delivery was easily taken by Dilshan, deputising for Sangakkara behind the stumps.
Ashraful came in and took three fours off a Vaas over, but then had one of those brain-fades that he's become prone to. He was in no sort of position to try and pull Thilan Thushara, and the top-edge came down into Dilshan's hands.
But with Raqibul starting in strokeful fashion and Nazimuddin determined to tilt at windmills, the run-rate quickly soared, with Thushara coming in for harsh treatment. Nazimuddin's dismissal, halted the charge though, and after that it was all about Murali.
Mushfiqur edged one to slip and Kapali was trapped in front by a doosra. Raqibul's brave innings was curtailed by another that went the wrong way, and Razzaq cleaned up going for the sweep. When Mortaza top-edged a sweep, he had five wickets for the ninth time in ODIs. It may sometimes be a young man's game, but it was the old hands that blew the candles out on Bangladesh.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo