Muralitharan hastens Bangladesh collapse
Bangladesh lost this day more than Sri Lanka won it. Shakib Al Hasan's third five-for in as many innings bowled out Sri Lanka for an unconvincing 293 just before lunch but that was the only passage of play to boast about for the home side. Muttiah Muralitharan's 66th five-wicket haul - his 11th against Bangladesh - halted their plans, reducing them to 177 for 9 before bad light stopped play early on the second day at Mirpur.
Bangladesh's openers had seen off a relatively easy period with a stand of 44 but it only ever seemed like a matter of time before the world's highest Test wicket-taker would come in and alter the script. It took him only two balls to strike. Periodic blows by Chaminda Vaas and the rest dented Bangladesh's progress further and laid the platform for Muralitharan to run through the lower order.
Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes, still new as an opening pair, played positively against the seamers with forceful shots off the front foot. Vaas, whose stock delivery is the away-swinger to the left-hander, beat the bat on quite a few occasions in an economical opening spell. Dammika Prasad, on the other hand, tried to rush the batsmen with his pace and bounce but got carried away on a couple of occasions, often dropping too full and at times too wide outside off.
The introduction of Tillakaratne Dilshan in the ninth over indicated a shift to spin. Muralitharan soon drew Tamim forward and induced an edge off the glove. Vaas came back for a new spell and struck too, as Kayes prodded forward and got a thin edge to Prasanna Jayawardene. He then cut short another Mohammad Ashraful cameo, out slashing to short extra cover.
Junaid Siddique started confidently too, scoring two firm boundaries past midwicket in one over from Vaas, and charging Rangana Herath for a boundary over mid-on. However, he invited his own downfall by exposing his stumps to Muralitharan just before tea, as the inside edge rolled off his pad and onto the stumps.
The mood in the Bangladesh camp lightened a little when Mehrab Hossain jnr and Shakib challenged the bowlers. Both were coming off decent performances against New Zealand and South Africa, when they dropped anchor and resisted after familiar top-order collapses, and once again they were called upon for damage control.
They came together with Bangladesh on a rocky 117 for 5. Their stand of 41 must have left the Sri Lankans worried, given that the tourists didn't have the cushion of runs they would've liked. Shakib set the tone with a nonchalant pull off Prasad which reduced the deep square-leg fielder to a mere spectator. He gambled on sweeping Murali against the turn on quite a few occasions and even connected with one, over deep midwicket. When he missed, it made for some unattractive batting.
Mehrab's approach to Muralitharan was far more laidback and the shot which characterised his promising stint was the premeditated loft over mid-on after giving the bowler the charge. Ultimately their stand didn't deliver and having gained momentum, both edged to Mahela Jayawardene at slip, off Herath and Muralitharan. Mashrafe Mortaza was trapped in front by a Muralitharan delivery from round the wicket and Shahadat Hossain became his fifth victim, stumped while attempting to launch him.
The batting collapse undid all the excellent work by Bangladesh in the morning session. Thilan Samaraweera and Vaas took control with a stand of 99 but the second new ball changed the script. Samaraweera held firm and looked set for a century but eventually fell for 90 after watching in frustration from the other end as his partners departed in quick succession. He negotiated Shakib well and got into his groove early with delectable cuts to the off side off the seamers. Not all the deliveries were boundary balls but Samaraweera showed his class and ability to improvise even when offered only a fraction of width.
Bangladesh's best chance of turning things around was with the new ball and one could sense their desperation to get their hands on it quickly as Ashraful rushed through a couple of overs shortly before it was due. Mortaza struck soon, getting Vaas to feather an edge. Prasad was softened up by several bouncers, before Shakib trapped him in front. Careless calling sent back Herath, as he nudged it wide of Mushfiqur Rahim and was ball-watching before the throw landed at the bowler's end.
Samaraweera fell an over later for 90, with an attempted dab to third man resulting in a catch to Siddique at first slip. Shakib led his team off the field and but the smiles faded after Bangladesh conceded the next two sessions to a team which responded better under pressure.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo