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The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
December 28, 2008
A fine hundred by Mahela Jayawardene and half-centuries from Kumar Sangakkara and Thilan Samaraweera effectively shut Bangladesh out of the first Test as Sri Lanka extended their lead to an imposing 406 with six wickets in hand at the end of the third day.
Much like yesterday, Bangladesh struggled to maintain their intensity after claiming the opening session with an impressive display of swing and seam bowling. But as the ball got older and the pitch lost its bite, the shoulders drooped and the body language among the Bangladesh players slackened.
The mere presence of Jayawardene and Sangakkara - who put on 135 for the third wicket - was more intimidating than some of the shots they played. Jayawardene remained unbeaten on 129 and a declaration shouldn't be too far away with lots of play lost to bad light and fog over the last three days.
The pair's first task had been to negotiate a challenging passage before lunch against the moving ball. But once the sun came out, the swing went as the pair got their eye the spinners were rendered ineffective. Bangladesh waited for things to happen and failed to create opportunities.
Jayawardene did offer a couple of half chances but by and large was solid at the crease. Poor calling nearly cost him his wicket before lunch, and shortly after the resumption, he slashed hard at Shakib Al Hasan, managing to beat first slip. He later survived a close shout for a caught behind off Mahbubul Alam. Both bowler and Mushfiqur Rahim were convinced the ball had kissed the outside edge, but umpire Nigel Llong wasn't and replays didn't present any conclusive evidence.
Jayawardene continued to graft and didn't get bogged down at any stage. His forward defense against Shakib in particular was more assured, ensuring he wouldn't fall as he had in the first innings - bowled through the gate. He was strong square of the wicket on the offside and made a listless Shahadat Hossain pay with two boundaries in an over. He did the same to Mahbubul Alam after tea when he crashed three consecutive boundaries through the off side, two square of the wicket and one past the covers.
He paddle-swept Shakib to the fine leg boundary to bring up his fifty and flicked Alam to the midwicket boundary to reach three figures. The relief was evident, coming after a lean trot in Zimbabwe where he scored just 19 in four innings. He was given another life at 101 when a spectacular diving catch by Mushfiqur had to be turned down because Alam overstepped.
Sangakkara saw off a shaky start against Mortaza and found his rhythm once the sun came out. He shrugged off the nerves with a cut past backward point off Shahadat, followed by an elegant back-foot punch past mid-on off. He used his feet well against the spinners and kept rotating the strike. A hundred looked inevitable before he got out to Mehrab, gloving one down the leg side for 67.
There was no respite for Bangladesh as Samaraweera walked in and bullied the spinners with boundaries through the extra-cover region. Shakib's ineffectiveness in the second innings was glaring as Samaraweera launched him twice over square leg and forced him to resort to defensive tactics by bowling round the wicket. He was eventually bowled off an inside edge off Mortaza, who seems to recharge only when handed the new ball.
Bangladesh's fortunes in the afternoon contrasted with their efforts in the morning. Mortaza gave the batsmen plenty of heart-stopping moments with a probing line outside off stump, particularly to Sangakkara. The highlight of the morning was the beauty to get rid of Michael Vandort. Caught in a moment of indecision, Vandort failed to act quickly to cover the sharp inward movement as the ball sneaked between bat and pad to hit middle stump. Shortly before Vandort departed, Malinda Warnapura fell leg-before, again failing to capitalise on a start.
Bangladesh had given themselves a chance of a fightback at that stage, before it all went downhill. They have been exposed in the past for letting the initiative slip, especially as the match wears on, though they have at least an entire day to ponder: Monday is the first rest day in a Test since 2001 on account of parliamentary elections in the country.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
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