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The Bulletin by Kanishkaa Balachandran
January 3, 2009
About an hour and half into the opening session, Sri Lanka's decision to bat first seemed to have backfired. On a slow-paced surface, batting was an ordeal and Sri Lanka limped to 65 for 3, with their two most experienced batsmen back in the pavilion. The next two sessions told a different story, thowever, thanks to Tillakaratne Dilshan's counterattacking brilliance.
His fast-paced 162, complemented by Chamara Kapugedera's unbeaten 93 and a patient 63 by Malinda Warnapura, had such a demoralising effect on the home side that Sri Lanka added a further 306 in two sessions.
Dilshan walked in shortly after lunch with his team wobbling at 75 for 4. Until then, the top order had struggled on a pitch which rendered shot-making difficult. Mashrafe Mortaza's restrictive line didn't allow the batsmen easy runs and even the introduction of spin - as early as the 10th over - didn't offer much respite.
With the ball turning and bouncing, the batsmen were caught in a shell and the spirited fielding by the home side suffocated the visitors. The best - and probably the only - way out, was to counter-attack and it was left to the trigger-happy Dilshan - already with the reputation of being a thrasher - to begin the rescue efforts and carry on.
His intention was to get on top of the spinners and he started off by picking on Bangladesh's best, Shakib Al Hasan. He charged down the pitch to him and crashed one through backward point in the same over to open his boundary account. In one particularly brutal spell, 53 runs came off six overs with Dilshan helping himself to 18 off a Shahadat Hossain over. He began by whipping him on the front foot over fine leg and then fetched two boundaries past backward point and pulled past midwicket. Shahadat had just had a lucky break, getting Thilan Samaraweera to chop one onto the stumps off a short ball. As if expecting lightning to strike twice, he persisted with the same length against Dilshan and was duly punished.
After keeping Sri Lanka in check through the morning, Bangladesh were starting to lose the plot. Dilshan motored along at more than a run a ball and didn't allow any bowler to get on top of him. Enamul Haque jnr, the left-arm-spinner who came in at the expense of the seamer Mahbubul Alam, was the one to eventually dismiss him, but his return to the Test side after nearly a year wasn't one to cherish. The quicker deliveries were delicately dabbed and cut down to third man by Dilshan and the shorter ones were swatted away either wide of cover or in the region of midwicket.
The low bounce was evident from the opening session and the spinners tried to skid the ball through and target the base of the stumps but to no avail. Warnapura played and missed on a few occasions but looked comfortable against the balls which sat up to be hit. He added 119 with Dilshan and Mohammad Ashraful decided to fix the situation by bringing himself on. Warnapura was squared up by a rather innocuous straighter one as Ashraful struck off his first ball and bellowed a war cry to rival his celebration after a fighting hundred in Mirpur.
The wicket didn't promise any respite for Bangladesh as Kapugedera scooped his first ball over mid-off and cut the next past backward point, as if to prove Ashraful's strike was a fluke. The stand-out feature in his innings was the wristy flicks to the on side. A short delivery by Mehrab Hossain jnr was flicked past midwicket and he regularly swept against the turn. He gave Shakib the charge, deposited him inside-out over long-off and pulled him when he dropped it too short. He was strong against the new ball as well and the lack of pace on the surface allowed him time to rock back and cut past backward point.
Dilshan's brilliance notwithstanding, Bangladesh had themselves to blame for their display in the field, which went from promising to poor as the day progressed. Mushfiqur Rahim's batting won many hearts in Mirpur but his wicketkeeping left a lot to be desired. He fumbled a stumping down the leg side when Warnapura was on 20, then dropped an edge off Mahela Jayawardene, which fortunately for him didn't cost much. He could have had Dilshan stumped on 78 had he gathered a rising delivery cleanly. Kapugedera had a life on 37 when a tame chip to mid-on was spilled by Imrul Kayes. Fielders at the boundary were more content trying to boot the ball away, rather than trying to bend down and pick it up.
The body language was a contrast to the morning session when Mortaza struck in the first over, dislodging makeshift opener Prasanna Jayawardene with one on the board. Prasanna walked back after being hit in front of leg stump, and Kumar Sangakkara followed after inside-edging the same bowler on to his stumps. Mahela was very circumspect and his punches failed to beat the infield. He fell to Shakib for 11, prodding forward.
The were few smiles in the home camp after that but much to their relief, they got rid of Dilshan before stumps, bowled freakishly round his legs. With Kapugedera still around, a score of 450 looms.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at CricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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