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February 20, 2006
Sri Lanka's ridiculously cramped schedule, even after some last-minute adjustments, was an obvious banana skin. Dav Whatmore, Bangladesh's shrewd coach, had cottoned on weeks before and was licking his lips in anticipation. Sri Lanka were forced into a series after breaking journey for less than 24 hours in Colombo after a gruelling Australia tour. They also had to attune to vastly different conditions and missed several key senior players. But Bangladesh bungled their chance of an early upset as Sri Lanka produced an energetic and clinical display, eventually cantering home with 25 overs to spare.
Bangladesh lost their way early with a series of loose strokes that would have left Whatmore pulling at his whiskers in frustration. Aftab Ahmed was particularly guilty having began successfully on what was a flat pitch. Having just hoisted a fine six he swung wildly at Ruchira Perera's next delivery and his stumps were splattered. It sparked a top-order collapse from which Bangladesh were never likely to recover as they slumped to 51 for 6.
Sri Lanka's pace attack, though, missing their premier bowler, Chaminda Vaas, who is putting his feet up before the Pakistan tour in March, were impressive. Perera, originally left out of a 21-man squad for the tour, led the way with a lively new-ball burst that secured him the Man-of-the-Match award and his first podium interview, an amusing spectacle that left his team-mates giggling like schoolboys in the background. But the ribbing aside, it was another fine effort from Perera, a natural joker and an effervescent character, who has worked incredibly hard to regain his place within the squad. Today he bowled with plenty of zip and swung the ball dangerously.
Perera was well-supported by Farveez Maharoof, who was returning after an injury that cut short his Australia tour. He was slightly wayward at the outset after breaking through in his first over but bagged three valuable wickets and would have been delighted to have made an immediate impact in the side. Dilhara Fernando, meanwhile, bent his back for two scalps and it was left to Sanath Jayasuriya, the elder statesman, to polish off the innings.
In the field, Sri Lanka, helped by some young legs, were sharp and menacing. There was a dropped catch by Malinga Bandara at slip - an unfamiliar position - and a bungled run out from Dilhara Fernando, but on the whole the team threatened as a unit. Kumar Sangakkara pulled off a stunning one-handed catch and Tillakaratne Dilshan prowled the point area with his now customary authority. Mahela Jayawardene, the current captain in the absence of the rested Atapattu, also led well, setting imaginative fields and working efficiently in tandem with Sangakkara.
Sri Lanka's batting reply did not start well as Jehan Mubarak, provided possibly his last chance of securing a longterm berth during this tour, made a meal of a Syed Rasel delivery and Jayasuriya struggled to come to terms with the slower pace of the Bogra pitch, eventually chopping on. Fortunately, though, Sangakkara and Jayawardene adapted quicker to the conditions and, once settled, they cantered to the finish line, although there were a trio of careless dismissals just before victory was wrapped up.
Ultimately, after a hectic week and scant respite, it was a solid start to a tour where the chances of an embarrassing slip-up were real. Sri Lanka have quickly stamped their authority on Bangladesh and they will now try to ramp-up the intensity even more for the second game on Wednesday.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondentFeeds: Charlie Austin
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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