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The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
December 31, 2008
Sri Lanka 293 (Samaraweera 90, Vandort 44, Shakib 5-70) and 405 for 6 dec (Mahela Jayawardene 166, Sangakkara 67) beat Bangladesh 178 (Kayes 33, Muralitharan 6-49) and 413 (Ashraful 101, Shakib 96, Muralitharan 4-141) by 107 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
How they were out
Bangladesh fell 107 short of pulling off the most miraculous chase as Sri Lanka clawed back after lunch to seal a victory they had taken for granted after declaring in the second innings. Mohammad Ashraful resisted with a hundred, and a 111-run stand between Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim gave the Sri Lankans a mighty scare. The game was still wide open, with Bangladesh needing 118 and Shakib and Mushfiqur going strong, until a double-strike by Dammika Prasad broke not only the partnership but several hearts across an expectant crowd hoping for the best new year's gift they could have asked for.
Lost in the frenzy was Muttiah Muraitharan's 10 for 190. His efforts restricted Bangladesh to a paltry 178 and the first-innings lead Sri Lanka gained ultimately proved crucial. Shakib also walked away with his head held high; The figures were impressive - 5 for 76 in the first innings and a 96 in the second - and his temperament stood out as well.
It's been a freakish month for massive fourth-innings chases, after famous victories by India and South Africa famous in Chennai and Perth respectively. In Chennai, Kevin Pietersen was left to rue his declaration and Mahela Jayawardene nearly suffered the same fate today after two successive 100-plus stands gave the Sri Lankans plenty of anxious moments.
Bangladesh's lower-middle order has stepped up in recent months and their performance here would have given betting men the world over - banking on an easy Sri Lanka win - a real scare. All hopes of a miraculous chase at the start of the day hinged on Ashraful, who had just two specialist batsmen - Shakib and Mushfiqur - to support him. His neat drives through extra cover characterised his fourth-day effort and he carried on in a similar vein today. He refused to get bogged down, charging Murali down the pitch and easily clearing mid-on.
In dire need of a breakthrough, Jayawardene opted for the new ball as soon as it was available but it didn't bring about an immediate change of luck. Prasad and Chaminda Vaas failed to get any movement in the air or off the seam and Ashraful, who took the bulk of the strike early on, was only happy to shoulder arms.
His celebration on reaching three figures was testament to how he had applied himself. An overpitched delivery by Vaas was scooped over mid-off and a roar from Ashraful resonated through the ground even before the ball reached the rope. He stayed put at the crease and punched the air twice - a far cry from his muted acknowledgement after reaching fifty yesterday. He has spent several agonising months unable to come to terms with his loss of form, and the performances of his struggling team, but his moment of elation rendered that a distant memory.
His dismissal soon after, however, was an anti-climax. Vaas pitched it up on middle and leg and got the ball to straighten. Ashraful shaped to tuck it away to leg but was struck low on the pads, in line with the stumps. As he trudged back, Jayawardene broke away from the huddle and patted his opposite number in appreciation of a memorable knock.
Shakib and Mushfiqur then ensured the chase remained on with a battling stand. Oddly enough for Muralitharan, he failed to get enough turn from the rough and that affected Sri Lanka's chances of wrapping it up earlier. He landed it on a good length on several occasions, only to be whipped off the backfoot by Shakib across the line. Shakib wasn't afraid to slog-sweep Murali against the turn and seemed intent on proving he wasn't so easily intimidated by him. He reached his fifty with a drive through extra cover and also slogged him over the same area. Mushfiqur was also not unduly troubled by Murali, often lunging forward to smother the spin and pushing the singles.
Watching the pair gain in confidence forced Sri Lanka to go on the defensive. Sweepers were placed either side of the wicket though the batsmen were equally happy to graft. And all the luck seemed to go Bangladesh's way, several edges traveled to the boundary.
With the ball having lost its shine, Jayawardene brought back his quickest bowler, Prasad, into the attack. He didn't start off very well - Shakib even pulled him nonchalantly, bisecting the gap at deep square-leg - but came back once the ball started to reverse. Shakib dragged a wide ball on to his stumps and soon after Mashrafe Mortaza edged an inswinger to the keeper.
Mushfiqur had the unenviable task of shepherding the tail but succumbed while trying to force Murali through the on side. That a run-out - following confusion over a third run - had to end the chase was unfortunate given the way Bangladesh had fought. Sri Lanka may have won by 107 runs but the moral victory was with Bangladesh.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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