Sri Lanka thrive as a collective
As cricket fans outside the two competing nations wind down after the boardroom histrionics at the ICC meeting in Dubai, they might note with an eyeroll and a harrumph that Sri Lanka have handed Bangladesh an almighty clobbering in Mirpur. For all their cash and covert planning, the Big Three boards still could not pull off the most one-sided showdown in cricket this week. The only way they might have matched Sri Lanka's bullying in this innings-and-248-run result, is if they had secretly put whoopee cushions under the seats of the Small Seven directors.
Like any bully, Sri Lanka will be mighty pleased at their work. Angelo Mathews said he did not know what his team would do with the extra day they have earned, but if the warm-down football game they played after the match is any indication, they will spend it in good spirits.
The scoreline appears impressive, but given the paucity of the resistance their opponents offered, Sri Lanka will be wary of over-congratulating themselves. For the batsmen, 730 for 6 is a once-in-a-career total. The bowlers will probably not expect a scoring rate of 4.82 from a team effectively batting to save the Test, in future.
But the victory did show something of the new Sri Lanka that is beginning to emerge - a team that thrives as a collective, not just as hangers-on to a great cricketer's coattails. This trend is most evident in the bowling, where one man has dominated their history, with help from one capable other.
Sri Lanka's bowling cards from around 1995 to 2010 feature protagonists Muttiah Muralitharan, Chaminda Vaas and a conveyor belt of also-bowleds. The likes of Pramodya Wickramasinghe, Ravindra Pushpakumara and Kumar Dharmasena plugged gaps in the XI in the 90s, before giving way to the likes of Dilhara Fernando, Upul Chandana and Farveez Maharoof in the most recent decade. Many of these bowlers are now more remembered for their quirks, than their exploits. Pushpakumara was a baby Waqar Younis, Dharmasena had a killer appeal, Fernando bowled a lot of no-balls, many while emitting a loud grunt. Rarely was it unclear who Sri Lanka's real pivots were.
That trend persisted even after Murali hung up his bent elbow. Before this year Rangana Herath had been the architect, or at least a prominent co-star, in each of Sri Lanka's triumphs since Murali. In the last series Sri Lanka played against Bangladesh last March - when, incidentally, the opposition had shown considerably more spirit and application than in this performance - Herath's 12 wickets had formed the major gulf between the sides.
But in Mirpur, Sri Lanka's quicks not only preserved the discipline they had found in the UAE series, they struck out with more ambition and discovered their armoury had expanded. Even Vaas in his pomp rarely bounced out oppositions, but blessed with height and pace that their bowling coach never had, Shaminda Eranga and Suranga Lakmal battered the Bangladesh top order, twice. There is no doubt the batsmen were generous with their wickets, but this was the first occasion a short-ball plan had been formulated by this attack, and their emphatic execution says much about their confidence. Eranga's brute to dismiss Shamsur Rahman on day four might have had the better of any batsman.
"Our bowlers have improved quite a lot in the last few games," Mathews said. "They've been bowling brilliantly. The fast bowlers were in really good rhythm, and they set it up for us in the first innings. They are delivering with the new ball and with the oldish ball, so I'm very happy with them at the moment."
Dilruwan Perera extracted bite and bounce from the day-four surface to finish with a maiden five-wicket haul in his second match, suggesting he can bring balance to the attack, just as he had lengthened Sri Lanka's batting in their previous Test. Suddenly, in this win and the last one in Dubai, Herath finds himself providing support as the others go hunting for scalps.
"I haven't been in a team where we had all four bowlers equally good," Mathews said. "I'm really pleased with the way Dilruwan bowled in the second innings because we had to give him that exposure. We knew he was going to deliver. We needed that extra spinner who supports Rangana, and he did the job today."
Even beyond the bowling, Sri Lanka are discovering a chorus of players clamouring to be part of its future. Mathews and the senior players have fostered an environment where humour and good vibes abound. Two weeks ago Kaushal Silva was the protagonist in a challenge against physio Steve Mount, which culminated in a bellyful of laughs for the team and the support staff at the Sharjah nets. Not many international teams have such a keen sense of fun embedded in their identity. It's no wonder then, that valuable contributions have come from almost every spot in the XI, in this match. Happy, and improving, Sri Lanka appear to be forming new dimensions to their cricket.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here