Samaraweera and Dilshan hand Sri Lanka the advantage
It was déjà vu at the end of the third day at the Chittagong Divisional Stadium, with Sri Lanka poised to set a huge target for Bangladesh to chase just as they did in Mirpur. With three days to go, Sri Lanka played it safe: first, they built on their first-innings lead of 176, capitalising on Bangladesh's defensive tactics, before an enterprising stand of 131 between Tillakaratne Dilshan and Thilan Samaraweera saw the advantage stretched to 472 at stumps with six wickets in hand.
Bangladesh will look back and regret the fact they didn't go for the kill after stifling the top order. The bowling was far better than their first-innings effort and Sri Lanka seemed content on blocking and grinding the bowling with the occasional single. Sensing that the batsmen, especially Mahela Jayawardene, were under a bit of pressure to break free, Bangladesh missed the plot by not attacking enough. There were hardly any close-in catchers for the new batsman, save for one slip. Fielders were placed on the deep on both sides, allowing easy singles.
It was as if Bangladesh were willing to wait for the errors, rather than come up with innovative field settings to induce them into the trap. With the pitch still on the slower side and driving through the line difficult, the infield could have been brought in closer - especially for the fast bowlers - to not only save the singles but claim catches off chipped drives. Mohammad Ashraful and Enamul Haque jnr claimed a wicket each off such shots but the home side didn't pick up the hint. Instead, they allowed three batsmen to score half-centuries and the unbeaten pair at stumps look set to record centuries and extend the lead to unassailable proportions, although it is already at the scale.
The overnight pair of Prasanna Jayawardene and Malinda Warnapura negotiated the first ten overs without fuss. Mashrafe Mortaza looked a pale shadow of his half-century heroics yesterday when handed the ball, ambling in and failing to spark any breakthroughs. He looked distinctly uncomfortable for most part, stretching his legs at the boundary. Prasanna stood a foot outside his crease against the seamers, and milked the singles before tamely clipping Ashraful to Shakib Al Hasan at short midwicket.
A double-strike made things interesting when Shahadat Hossain trapped Warnapura lbw though replays showed he was lucky to get away with a delivery which pitched marginally outside leg. Shahadat made up for Mortaza's listlessness by running in hard, cutting down on the short stuff, pitching it up and surprising the batsmen with the occasional inswinging yorker.
Mahela was all at sea against Shahadat, even failing to put away a low full toss. He was already bogged down by the spinners and his misery ended when he lobbed a simple catch to Imrul Kayes at short cover off Haque. The ball stopped on him as he checked his shot and his 100th Test was one to forget as far as his batting was concerned.
Sangakkara too went on the defensive before opening up during a Shakib Al Hasan over, stepping down and lofting two fours over the on side. After working his way to a steady fifty, he was undone by an innocuous Ashraful delivery which begged to be bludgeoned through the off side; instead his half-hearted punch found the inside edge.
Dilshan and Samaraweera sparked positive energy to the innings with sharp singles and powerful boundaries. Dishan survived a run-out opportunity early in his innings and was later dropped at slip on 51, but he looked just as dangerous as he was in his first innings. His unbeaten 81 was punctuated with powerful off-side drives off the front foot while staying rooted to the crease.
Samaraweera's knock was comparatively chanceless. He seized on anything fractionally short and clubbed the spinners over midwicket to settle in. He was strong on the cut even while picking boundaries off delicate edges when third man was up in the circle. He was content padding away deliveries down the leg side, with the lack of turn from the rough compounding Bangladesh's woes.
The pair look set to pile on more pain, at least until the lead reaches 550, before Mahela decides to declare. With the bounce getting even lower, more application will be needed from the home side's batsmen on the final two days.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo