Sangakkara leads Sri Lanka to victory
The celebratory mood of Bogra gave way to an introspective calm at Chittagong as Bangladesh, just coming off their first-ever one-day win against Sri Lanka, were brought hurtling down to earth. A superbly-paced century from Kumar Sangakkara inspired a rampaging Sri Lankan performance, helping them post a tall score and coast to a 78-run win.
Sangakkara, who executed the sheet-anchor role, helped Sri Lanka overcome a sluggish start, strengthened their position in the middle overs and stepped it up gradually. Counterattacking bursts from Mahela Jayawardene and Kaushal Lokuarachchi beefed up the total as Sri Lanka, who had staggered to 212 in the previous game, rattled up an imposing 309 for 7. Mohammad Ashraful's dashing half-century was nothing more than a consolation as Bangladesh limped to a big defeat, ending the series with a whimper.
Bangladesh will look back at the early stages of the game, which they bossed, and wonder where it all went wrong. Sangakkara walked in with the packed house abuzz with anticipation. Mashrafe Mortaza, who had got a wicket in the first over of the match, was in the midst of a lively opening spell and, along with Syed Rasel's left-arm military medium, had the Sri Lankan batsmen in a nagging rut at 17 for 2.
A few trademark Sangakkara punches eased the pressure but he quickly moved over to the back seat once Jayawardene began to change the tempo. He was dropped on 16, when Khaled Mashud grassed a chance behind the stumps, and it proved to be a costly miss for Bangladesh, as their initiative was wrenched away. Jayawardene backed himself against the predictable medium-pace, with Tapash Baisya unable to vary his deliveries, and was one of the main reasons for sorry figures of none for 43 in five overs.
Jayawardene fell soon after reaching fifty, popping a return catch to Mohammad Rafique, but his replacement, Lokuarachchi, was equally, of not more, effective. A one-day average of 11.37 in 12 games may suggest a bunny with the bat, but Lokuarachchi profited from his dashing instincts, succeeding in disturbing the spinners' length and maintaining the momentum. He regularly scampered between the wickets, after walking right across the stumps and nudging to the on side, and sprinted to his first ODI fifty in just 43 balls.
Sangakkara was the less conspicuous partner in both these partnerships but his value at the other end shouldn't be under-estimated. Whether it was strike rotation, regularly converting singles into twos, or advising the inexperienced Lokuarachchi, constantly talking to him during the breaks, he played a vital role in anchoring the innings. Once the slog overs approached he flung his bat at everything, got lucky on a few occasions with thick inside edges flying away to the fine-leg fence, and completed his fifth one-day hundred, a crucial knock considering the situation.
Chasing 310 was never on the cards and Bangladesh's openers began as if they had given up hope. The plan was to probably see off the new ball and get after the inexperienced bowlers but it backfired almost instantly. Dhammika Prasad, the debutant medium-pacer, struck in his very first over in international cricket, the 10th of the innings, and extinguished any such hopes. The thick-set Prasad bustled in with a mixed action, getting slightly side-on during the time of delivery, and cranked up some disconcerting pace. He struck with his third ball, digging it in short and getting Shahriar Nafees to top edge, before nailing Aftab Ahmed, inducing an edge that flew towards second slip. Mahela Jayawardene celebrated immediately after completing the catch but replays showed that the ball might have actually bounced before he clasped his fingers around it.
Ashraful was the only batsman to show the initiative to get after the bowling, with reverse-sweeps against the spinners and lofted drives off the faster men. His 11 sweetly-struck fours gave Bangladesh the faintest of chances but, with wickets falling at the other end, this was always going to turn futile. Habibul Bashar and Alok Kapali fell to sloppy shot selection - one pulled a long hop straight to short midwicket, the other swept a full ball and missed - and the Sri Lankan spinners, who snared four wickets between them, ensured that the screws were gradually tightened. Mortaza's mighty sixes were like raging flames in a burning wreckage and, sadly for Bangladesh, his fine opening spell this morning was all but forgotten.
How they were out
Upul Tharanga c Nafees b Mortaza 0 (0 for 1)
Pushed at a short-of-a-good-length ball; good low catch at second slip
Jayasuriya c Baisya b Mortaza 4 (17 for 2)
Pulled straight to fine leg
Jayawardene c and b Rafique 51 (92 for 3)
Hesitantly patted one back to the bowler
Kaushal Lokuarachchi b Rafique 69 (196 for 4)
Missed a faster one trying to slog to midwicket
Tillakaratne Dilshan c Ashraful b Rasel 22 (258 for 5)
Tried to paddle-sweep but only lobbed a catch to short fine leg
Kumar Sangakkara b Rafique 109 (263 for 6)
Missed while trying to sweep
Chamara Kapugedera c Bashar b Rasel 16 (282 for 7)
Tried to loft over long-off; chipped to cover
Shahriar Nafees c Dilshan b Prasad 13 (29 for 1)
Attempted to pull a short one; top-edged to the covers
Aftab Ahmed c Jayawardene b Prasad 0 (29 for 2)
Flashed at one outside off; controversy over the legality of the catch
Javed Omar c Sangakkara b Perera 24 (44 for 3)
Drove at a wide ball; superb athletic catch behind the stumps
Habibul Bashar c Jayawardene b Jayasuriya 30 (130 for 4)
Pulled a long hop straight to short midwicket
Mohammad Ashraful c Bandara b Dilshan 64 (144 for 5)
Holed out to midwicket
Alok Kapali lbw b Dilshan 5 (146 for 5)
Trapped in front while missing a sweep
Mohammad Rafique c Tharanga b Lokuarachchi 22 (185 for 7)
Mis-timed a pull to midwicket
Manjural Islam Rana lbw b Lokuarachchi 23 (195 for 8)
Trapped in front by a legbreak
Mashrafe Mortaza c Mubarak (sub) b Bandara 19 (219 for 9)
Leading edge taken at short third man
Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo