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January 4, 2009
Despite conceding a 176-run first-innings lead, Mashrafe Mortaza believes Bangladesh can draw inspiration from their gallant effort in the previous Test in Mirpur and make a comeback over the next three days.
Mortaza's 63 helped Bangladesh avoid the follow-on - he added 63 for the tenth wicket with Shahadat Hossain - and he said the onus would be on the bowlers to put the team back in the hunt. "I think day three is crucial in the context of the match," he said. "If we can bowl well and restrict them then this match can turn into a good contest. We have to show the application like in Mirpur."
The score was 145 for 9 when Mortaza was joined at the crease by Shahadat, and they needed another 40 to avert the follow-on. "The plan was to save the follow on," he said. "I tried to take as much strike as possible but Rajib [Shahadat] was a brilliant partner. We have batted together in similar situations a few times before so I had confidence in him." The two added 77 for the ninth wicket against India at the same venue in 2007.
In his eight previous Test innings against Sri Lanka, Mortaza had been dismissed by Muttiah Muralitharan five times, and he admitted it was Murali and not Ajantha Mendis who he "was thinking more about". "Muralitharan had got me...before and every time I had got out early. That's why my goal was to survive first which I managed to do today. Also the boys in the dressing room, and Ash [Mohammad Ashraful] in particular, gave me tips on how to handle him.
"Mendis is obviously world-class, and currently the top bowler in international cricket, but today I found Murali more difficult comparatively."
Mortaza felt the dismissal of Ashraful for 45 was the turning point of the day. "He had played brilliantly until he got out," he said. The Bangladesh captain perished while attempting the reverse-sweep against Murali - his fourth unsuccessful attempt at the shot in the innings. "Ash has a habit of hurrying through the 40s and 90s," Mortaza added. "Also, I think he spotted a scoring opportunity as the off-side fielders were brought in and Murali came round the wicket."
Mortaza did not feel the pitch was deteriorating, a welcome sign as Bangladesh have to bat last, and drew inspiration from New Zealand's run-chase last year. "There are cracks but not that prominent and if you look back to the Test here against New Zealand in October the pitch actually got better for batting in the last three days."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.