Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Mirpur, 3rd day January 29, 2014

Sri Lanka commit to the grind

A maiden ton to Kithuruwan Vithanage at almost a-run-a-ball was the most telling personal contribution, as he joined the wave of young players suggesting Sri Lanka's future is more secure than previously imagined

As the Sri Lanka middle order, led by Mahela Jayawardene, ground Bangladesh into the Mirpur dirt on day three, perhaps little was revealed about the extent of their skill, or the depth of their character. Jayawardene did not admit this had been the easiest of his seven double-centuries - even if it had brought the most muted celebrations - but he did concede that, at times, the hosts' efforts subsided to allow his team easier progress.

Jayawardene has also prospered in such conditions before, and had already been in fine touch in the approach to the series. Angelo Mathews' 86 was further evidence of increasing batting maturity, but also perhaps of a frustrating tendency to fall when three figures are in sight - he had already hit two scores in the 90s in the past month.

A maiden ton to Kithuruwan Vithanage at almost a-run-a-ball was the most telling personal contribution, as he joined the wave of young players suggesting Sri Lanka's future is more secure than previously imagined. Vithanage has a reputation for power and positivity in first-class cricket, but few Sri Lanka batsmen translate home success into such emphatic Test returns in as few Tests as he has had. Far sterner examinations await him than this friendly surface and tired attack, and he will probably never again arrive with 554 runs already on the scoreboard. But there was technique and intelligence to match his spunk, and to outscore Jayawardene - already batting on a ton - during their 176-run partnership is a praiseworthy effort.

"The way Kithuruwan batted today - that's the first time I batted with him - he looks very promising, very confident out there, the way he was striking the ball," Jayawardene said. "All in all we've got some young talent coming through. It's important we give them the opportunity and guide them in tough situations and they'll carry forward the good work we've done."

Day three did reveal, however, something of Sri Lanka's mentality. Not content with a first-innings lead of 400 the visitors spurned the chance to have half a session or more, bowling to Bangladesh. That Sri Lanka plays conservative cricket is no surprise to fans who followed their tour of the UAE. Although a deterioration of that approach had ended with Sri Lanka receiving an almighty shakedown in Sharjah, they proved they remain committed to the grind, against Bangladesh.

That outlook is not without merit, but a strong argument may be presented that a 498-run lead is overkill, particularly against a team that has never come close to defeating Sri Lanka. In their last Test match less than a year ago, 240 and 265 were the totals Bangladesh managed. The pitch had flattened out since the hosts were dismissed for 232 on day one, but it has also become more profitable for spinners, of which Sri Lanka played two.

The team might argue though, that mounting a mammoth total not only served to demoralise opposition batsmen, it also ensured Bangladesh would begin on a pitch that was in worse shape. The wicket of Tamim Iqbal, whose leading edge caught a ball he did not expect to turn so much, may be presented as supporting evidence. 

"We were looking at a 400-run lead because the wicket still looks good," Jayawardene said. "So we needed as much as we could get. We had to make a call to try and give them about 15 overs, but the way Kithuruwan batted, the management and the captain decided to give us a few more overs. We got the message that we'd get another four-five overs max to try and get a hundred and a double-hundred. It wasn't easy because they had fields spread. We had to bide our time a bit longer, and that was the call. Having as many runs on the board as we've got gives us the opportunity to attack more tomorrow."

It is difficult to imagine this team would choose to pursue the quickest, most emphatic win they can manage. On this occasion, they have a chance of dealing the final blow on the fourth day, particularly as some deliveries had begun to misbehave towards the end of Sri Lanka's innings.

"There's a bit of rough being created so there's a bit of spin," Jayawardene said of the surface. "Shakib Al Hasan spun quite a few yesterday and today. We just needed to make sure we keep putting the ball in the right areas as many times as possible and try and wait for those opportunities to come our way and try and create that pressure. That's what we did to them in the first innings, so we'll try and do the same."

Fans will note there has been no public concession that negative strategy brought Sri Lanka's downfall in Sharjah. The team has not been anywhere near as defensive in this match, nor is there much chance Bangladesh can turn this Test around, as Pakistan did. There are also good reasons for delaying Wednesday's declaration - it is just hoped that Sri Lanka know boldness and intent can put an opposition under pressure just as well as a blown out scoreboard.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • udendra on January 30, 2014, 4:41 GMT

    For me, Kithruwan's century was not very convincing (albeit well played). But again, even Samaraweera's first was like that. I'd like to see how he goes against much stronger bowling attacks. So wouldn't predict anything for now.

  • Shamalka on January 30, 2014, 4:12 GMT

    No one has to worry about Anji's tendency at the sight of triple figures. Let him alone to find a way out of it and I'm sure that he will definitely find a way soon as he has matured immensely rather than book cricketers like us. No body wants to get out intentionally when he's getting closer to a ton so as Mathews. We should be more worried about players like Chandimal who couldn't score a single century in UAE and atleast a 50 here in the 1st innings against less fearsome Bangladesh attack. He never has to face the new ball. He always comes on to bat when the 1st four batsmen have put a solid platform but he still can't capitalize on it. May be he's ok for ODIs but never for Tests & T20s. I don't know how our selectors have made him T20 captain when even the least of the IPL T20 franchises doesn't have anything to offer him. Cricinfo please publish!

  • Dummy4 on January 30, 2014, 3:03 GMT

    I m an ardent Sri Lankan and an admirer of Sri Lankan cricket. But, I wonder if it is the right thing to break the heart of the BD players and grind them into the dust an completely demoralize their own fans! After all, it is just a game!!

  • $$ milind on January 30, 2014, 2:25 GMT

    Sri Lanka really have been producing good batsmen but it would be nice if some more spinners( who are Test-quality ) and a few fast bowlers. Eranga, Lakmal are much better bowlers now and I hope they continue the good work.

  • Peter on January 29, 2014, 21:14 GMT

    @ pradeep_dealwis. Let's wait until they perform in the outside world of England, South Africa & Australia before dubbing them the 2nd best young batting side in world cricket, shall we? I did watch many of this side down under & I didn't get any vibes they anything special after being mauled by the Aussie quicks. But, that aside, I have been impressed how the SL batsmen have applied themselves to test cricket & understand the value of controlled patience. It probably shows the value of their FC system in preparing batsmen to handle Test cricket standards despite similar talents from both countries. I hope the BD cricket board take note.

  • Amir on January 29, 2014, 18:50 GMT

    I am from BD and have no problem with SL pressing their advantage when ahead. I don't understand people who criticise SL for creating such a lead. SL is trying to demoralize BD on the first test to create a psychological advantage for the rest of the series. If my team doesn't want to be embarrassed, they should step up and bat out the next two days.

  • Dummy4 on January 29, 2014, 18:12 GMT

    Well done SL. The job is only half done. Go for it and finish the match on the fourth day. Now it is up to our bowlers to up their performance yet again from the first innings and go for a positive end.

  • Dummy4 on January 29, 2014, 18:06 GMT

    I agree that SL were way too defensive in the Last game against Pakistan. But amassing this lead is far from defensive. They have 189 overs to get 10 wickets on fourth and fifth day in a test match against the number 10 side in the world with a first innings lead close to 500 with one of the best spinners around in the world. Well they have played their cards very smartly. And their batsmen have responded emphatically. This is the best possible attacking cricket you can play. This is how you destroy an opposition and press your advantage. Which SL lacked in that Sharjah game.

  • Pradeep on January 29, 2014, 17:14 GMT

    I think it's fair to say that, after India, Sri Lanka seems to have the best young batting talent. Karunarathne, Mathews, Chandimal, Thirimane and now Vithanage are all 25 or less and showing promise. Obviously Mathews is the only one who ahs yet matured, and Thirimane is close...but things looks promising. Chandimal also has to step it up if he wants to stay in the team ahead of the competition.

  • Chatty on January 29, 2014, 17:11 GMT

    I too argued that SL played negative cricket in the last test against Pakistan. But getting a big lead here is far from negative. It is being pragmatic. Last time in SL, Banglas got a massive total on a flat track. This wicket is as flat as you get. So, one has to assume that Banglas will manage a big second innings total. A lead of 300 could have meant chasing 200 in the last inning. If they crumble to a low score, that will be due to the pressure of the lead. There is nothing hugely wrong with being conservative. Even conservatives take calculated risks. What is bad is being negative. We should not confuse the two.

  • No featured comments at the moment.