Spirited Bangladesh peg back Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka recovered from a mid-afternoon wobble and saved themselves from the embarrassment of a first-innings deficit. Bangladesh, on their part, sensing an upset and brimming with energy throughout, pushed and harried the tourists for the second consecutive day. By the close, though, Sri Lanka had reclaimed the slimmest of advantages, finishing on 313 for 6, just a handful of runs adrift with Thilan Samaraweera cemented at the crease on 57.
Samaraweera has done many such rescue acts in the past so the fact that he was able to so effectively stabilise the innings - despite coming straight into the Test without proper match practice - was not surprising. The revelation was Farveez Maharoof, who for the first time unwrapped his obvious batting potential with a fine 72, an innings that confirmed he is far more than a bowling allrounder.
Maharoof has impressed many since breaking into the team during Sri Lanka's tour to Zimbabwe in 2004 with his maturity and mental coolness. However, batting opportunities have been few. Today, though, was a perfect opportunity in the pivotal No.7 position - a spot that he could go on to claim as his own - and he responded magnificently to the added pressure.
A tall man and a powerful striker of the ball, Maharoof followed the example of Samaraweera at the start of his innings, with his nose to the ground and playing himself him in with assiduous care either side of tea. Gradually, however, he grew more assertive and the boundaries started to flow, all with a meaty thwack but also a clinical air, a testament to his shot selection.
Earlier, Muralitharan had begun the day by kicking the Chittagong dust in frustration as Maharoof spilled a chance in the deep. However, Sri Lanka did not have to wait long for the end of the innings as Malinga, the pick of the pace bowlers who finished with 4 for 57, struck with his fifth delivery: Shahadat Hossain spooning to deep square.
Michael Vandort's return to the Test team after a long wait on the sidelines lasted just three balls as he dabbed tentatively, probably nervously, at a wide outswinger from Syed Rasel, a delivery that should have been left alone. Khaled Mashud, impressive behind the stumps, dived in front of first slip to take the catch to trigger jubilant celebrations.
But Bangladesh badly missed Mashrafe Mortaza, their lone strike bowler with real teeth in top-flight cricket. He has been rested because of concerns about his fitness as he feels his way back from injury. Rasel was probing as he swung the ball both ways - once coming within a whisker of trapping Upul Tharanga with an indipper that was padded away - but his partner, Hossain, presented too many scoring opportunities and Sri Lanka soon settled down.
Tharanga pulled and glanced to leg - most of his runs coming behind the wicket - while Sangakkara, who announced his presence with a dismissive cut to the ropes, played some imperious strokes, especially off the backfoot through the offside. The pair cruised along at a healthy pace during a 86-run stand, forcing the early entry of the spinners.
Immediately, Mohammad Rafique and Enamul Haque Junior were more threatening and frugal on a crispy-dry surface. They broke through too as Tharanga, pushing forward defensively, bat-padded a catch to Mohammad Ashraful at short leg, rejuvenating the Bangladesh players just before the luncheon interval.
After the break Jayawardene and Sangakkara grabbed the initiative again, batting serenely during a 63-run partnership. Both players were determined to be positive, unafraid to take the aerial route and mount the pressure on an inexperienced attack. As Sri Lanka zipped to 149 for 2, a large first innings lead beckoned.
However, after a stream of silky strokes that included one glorious straight six, Jayawardene made a fatal misjudgement as he tried to loft the faster, snappier left-arm spin of Rafique. He miscued badly and offered the simplest of catches to mid on, re-igniting a Bangladesh side that clearly believed an upset was possible.
The wicket of Sangakkara was even more precious. He was in brilliant form and flowed effortlessly to 69, his only blemish a top-edged sweep that the slip fieldsman, Shariar Nafees, sprinted after for 30 yards before spilling. The miss was not costly as Sangakkara was dubiously given out to a bat-pad a few minutes later.
Suddenly, the tension crackled and the ball was spinning like a top. Rafique pushed the ball through with his round arm while Haque, his junior, tossed it up temptingly to extract both spin and bounce. Tillakaratne Dilshan (22) might have been trapped a couple of times before finally missing a sweep.
On the whole, going by the evidence of two hard-fought days, the Sri Lankans are still far from safe. On the contrary, having been gifted Maharoof's wicket just before the close, courtesy of a rare loss of concentration and a lazy waft that sent the ball cannoning onto his stumps, Bangladesh will start day three with an eye on Sri Lanka's long tail - the trio of Dilhara Fernando, Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga is hardly frightening.
It will be crucial for Sri Lanka to eke out as many runs as possible during the third morning for chasing even a small total could be difficult. The whole of Chittagong would descend if they sniffed a Test victory and by day four and five the pitch, although slow, could be turning square. The Test could well be heading for an enthralling finish.
Michael Vandort c Mashud b Rasel 0 (0 for 1)
Pushed at a wide swinging delivery
Upul Tharanga c Ashraful b Raffique 42 (86 for 2)
Bat-padded a catch at short leg
Mahela Jayawardene c Shahadat Hossain b Rafique 30 (149 for 3)
Miscued attempted lofted drive to mid on
Kumar Sangakkara c Ashraful b Haque 69 (149 for 4)
Unlucky to given out at bat-pad
Tillakaratne Dilshan lbw Haque 22 (178 for 5)
Missed attempted sweep stroke
Farveez Maharoof b Hossain 72 (295 for 6)
Chopped on with lazy waft
Shahadat Hossain c Tharanga b Malinga 12 (318 for 10)
Toed full-length inswinger to deep square
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondent