Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Chittagong, 2nd day February 5, 2014

Bangladesh's mental brick wall

Bowling to left-handers has long been a struggle for Bangladesh's spinners. Bowling to Kumar Sangakkara has become a nightmare

Tamim Iqbal, stand-in captain for the day, watched from deep fine-leg as Shakib Al Hasan bowled the last ball of the 146th over. All nine outfielders were just a few meters inside the rope as Kumar Sangakkara tapped the ball past point to retain the strike and move to 285. There was every reason for Tamim to pull all the fielders in, but on that instance, like many times in the past, Bangladesh were possessed. It has happened several times when playing against Sri Lanka since 2007.

Sangakkara has the most runs and hundreds in Tests against Bangladesh, and the force of such run-scoring has turned him into a mental brick wall for the bowlers. In a way, it has altered the way Bangladesh's bowlers think of bowling at left-handers, and how left-arm spinners and orthodox offspinners have been selected and used over the years.

Bangladesh's left-arm spinners have always had a general weakness against left-handed batsmen. Out of Shakib's 121 Test wickets, for instance, only 23 are left-handers. Of Mohammad Rafique's 100 wickets, only 31 were left-handers.

What has never worked for them is the angle. They have never quite mastered the technique of finding the gap between bat and pad, using turn to beat the bat, or bowling a widish line to bring the slips and the off-side field into play.

The same was true for Shakib over the last two days, as he bowled either short or on a middle-stump line. Often, he failed to string dot balls together, something the Bangladesh bowlers had been planning to do for two weeks. Sangakkara struck him for five sixes and eight boundaries as he completely dominated the team's best bowler, scoring 100 runs off him in just 121 balls.

He also took full advantage of Bangladesh's selection, easily milking Mahmudullah and Nasir Hossain. Sohag Gazi has taken Sangakkara's wicket twice in four innings previously but this time he had no chance, giving away 96 off 150 balls. Sangakkara avoided using the sweep, giving Gazi even less of a chance to beat the bat.

Gazi is by far Bangladesh's best offspinner and has so far been successful against left-handers. But he has taken just three wickets in this series at an average of 103.66, bowling flatter and more often than not slipping down the leg side after building up some pressure.

What has also become a negative trend in the Bangladesh mindset is the theory of only employing offspinners when a left-handed batsman comes to the crease, and using them heavily until two right-handers come in. Even on the second morning, Tamim used Gazi, Mahmudullah and Nasir instead of Shakib in the first hour. Nasir took the wicket of Kithuruwan Vithanage but Shakib must be good enough to take on left-handers. This theory, which in itself shows a lack of confidence in a bowler's quality, has caused Shakib to pick up fewer left-handers' wickets.

Sangakkara used every angle and option possible in the field to milk the Bangladesh spinners, and by the team he approached his triple-century, there was nothing left for the bowlers to try but watch the inevitable.

While he moved from 286 to 302 in the most wonderful style, the fielders remained aimless, some of them glancing towards the pavilion building. The bowlers were at their wits' end, and when Nasir took his wicket, he raised his arms, screamed in delight, and kept at it for 20 seconds. Getting Sangakkara out early has always been tantamount to thinking Bangladesh have a big advantage over against Sri Lanka, only for him to quash their confidence the next time.

Nasir's reaction showed precisely how ecstatic and relieved Bangladesh have felt each time they have been able to get him out, no matter how much he's scored.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Kasif on February 6, 2014, 4:27 GMT

    Here Bangladesh will look back and rightly think that had Sangakkara gone for a duck, they might have knocked Sri Lanka over for a score as low as 200. Looking farther back, Bangladesh would likely have won the Test in Colombo last year were it not for Sangakkara. It seems to me that he especially punishes Bangladesh primarily because he plays them with supreme confidence, plays them on familiar surfaces, and doesn't have to contend with any great swing or seam threat in their ranks (all but one of his dismissals in his last series were to pace).

    While the TV commentators were constantly slamming Bangladesh's effort in the field, I couldn't see much to complain about. They admirably kept a bunch of in-form batsmen from scoring many at all. Vithanage would've been stumped early by an able Mushfiqur, and Mendis had multiple lives.

    Just as a great bowler can tear through a batting order with an unplayable spell, a great batsman can dominate a bowling attack with an unbreakable innings.

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 23:56 GMT

    I am expecting bangladesh will be batted whole day today and tried their best effort to make match draw. This is like batting pitch. If bd batsmans little a bit patient & hard work. Definite result come to their hand. Bd batsman play risky shots most of the time that reason, they could not reach their target. They have ro be patient and wait for time come. Because bowlers once could not get wicket . They will deliver bad ball then hit. Most of the bd batsman no patient , they are expecting to hit every ball as a result most of the time they fail to make good score. No batsman remember his previous mistake and change their attitude that's the main problem bangladesh national team. They are relent no doubt but never implement at field. Never thinks great batsman like Sangakara, how patiently he has been playing and spent long time in crease & also make good score. Everyone advice BD batsmans has to be change their mindset they they would be most comparative team in the world.

  • Android on February 5, 2014, 21:30 GMT

    Cpt. Meanster I disagree with you. Bangladesh know they can bet bigger opposition and they go to the field for that. With the score at 86/1 and Shamsur and Imrul looking set, we can In Shaa Allah go on to make a big enough score. The team is better than before. If they never believed in their capability, they wouldn't have these glorious last 2 year's in international cricket. More to come from the Mushy army In Shaa Allah

  • Arijit_in_TO on February 5, 2014, 21:06 GMT

    Bangladesh remain a very good ODI side that can beat any team. Conversely, it also remains a woefully inadequate Test side not equipped for the longer game in its current team incarnation. There is no shame in admitting that and consciously making an effort to groom athletes appropriate for 5 day test matches: the three formats require quite different approaches. Ultimately, the best players can perform in all three but the shorter the format the greater the need for athletes who posses power, the ability to improvise and tactical shifts by captains while the longer the format rewards obduracy, concentration, stamina, and strategy on the part of the coaching staff before and throughout the course of a match.

  • Jay on February 5, 2014, 19:56 GMT

    The problem with Bangladesh is that they think they cannot win against major opposition. For example, whenever Bangladesh play Zimbabwe, they play to win and play fearlessly. But when they play against other big teams, they are resigned to their fate as if they are not meant to beat other teams. This mentality must change if they are to improve their standings. If such performances keep continuing, the Big 3 will surely relegate Bangladesh to tier 2 in the future. Please remember that Bangladesh only supported the new ICC revamp after they got assurance of their continued test status. It is time Bangladesh played with a strong mind set. Their passionate fans deserve that much. Come on Tigers, put up a good show.

  • Dummy4 on February 5, 2014, 18:10 GMT

    All the great players Sri Lanka have produced that have faced Bangladesh e.g. Jaysuriya, Mahela and Sanga seem to love batting against them. Today was certainly no exception

  • No featured comments at the moment.