Tharanga ton seals Sri Lanka's win
Led by a fluent century by Upul Tharanga, Sri Lanka started their Champions Trophy campaign in fine style beating Bangladesh by 37 runs in the first qualifying match at Mohali. Tharanga's 129-ball 105, coupled with vital contributions from all the Sri Lankan top-order batsmen, lifted them to an imposing 302, a target that was well beyond Bangladesh, who lost early wickets but managed to lift themselves to 265.
Bangladesh's only triumph against Sri Lanka in ODIs came earlier this year, but from the start it was apparent that another upset today was highly unlikely. Habibul Bashar's decision to field first was based on the unusual amount of grass on the pitch and the dew factor later in the evening, but none of the Bangladesh bowlers made much impression in the afternoon, though Mohammad Rafique kept the runs in check. Sri Lanka's fast bowlers, on the other hand, extracted plenty of bounce and movement under lights, and though Aftab Ahmed and Farhad Reza biffed 30s and Saqibul Hasan, the left-handed batsman, managed his maiden ODI half-century, there was never any doubt about which way the match would go.
The key to the Sri Lankan innings was regular partnerships for each wicket, with Tharanga being the common factor: with Sanath Jayasuriya he added 67 for the opening wicket in 13 overs to get the innings off to a brisk start; with Mahela Jayawardene, who scored an utterly delightful 35 off 24 balls, he added 63 more in a mere nine overs; Kumar Sangakkara then came in for a 63-run third wicket stand; and Marvan Atapattu, returning from a back injury, put together 51 for the fourth. These partnerships all came in quick time, and ensured that Bangladesh never got a look-in.
The batsman who held it all together was Tharanga, who creamed his fifth century in 28 ODIs. When the ball was new and the field in, he boldly chose to go over the top, twice creaming Mashrafe Mortaza over mid-off for fours in an over. Then, when the field spread out, he chipped and nudged it cleverly into the gaps to keep the board ticking over constantly, but also managed to find the fence whenever the bowlers dropped it short and wide. The only blip in his innings came when he played out nine dot balls when on 49, but once he reached his half-century, he motored along smoothly till he finally missed a slog across the line off Mortaza.
Tharanga's was the most substantial innings, but the rest of the batsmen all played vital roles. Jayawardene played with exceptional fluency in his entertaining cameo, cutting, flicking and driving with aplomb. After he was undone by overconfidence, Sangakkara kept the momentum going and then passed on the baton to Atapattu, who returned to international cricket in impressive fashion. Showing plenty of urgency with his strokes and running between the wickets, he farmed the strike around, and biffed seven fours, not all of which were off controlled, conventional strokes.
Bangladesh fought back towards the end, grabbing four wickets as batsman after batsman fell in an attempt to force the pace, but Tillakaratne Dilshan and Muttiah Muralitharan whacked 28 from the last two overs to take Sri Lanka past 300.
If substantial partnerships for each wicket characterised Sri Lanka's effort at the crease, then Bangladesh's reply was stymied by a lack of significant contributions from the top order. Aftab and Reza did their bit, and though it was entertaining while it lasted, the risk factor in their strokeplay was so huge that there was little chance of either batsman being able to sustain it. Aftab charged the fast bowlers and clipped Dilhara Fernando for a magnificent six over long leg, while Reza played a stunning lofted straight-drive off Muralitharan, prancing down the pitch with complete assurance. However, once they were done, the result was never in doubt: Saqibul battled hard for an unbeaten 67, but needed 108 deliveries to get there, and though the lower order all got among the runs, it only helped to the extent of reducing the margin of defeat.
Among the Sri Lankan bowlers, Lasith Malinga was the most impressive: though he finished wicketless, he consistently clocked more than 145 kmph and troubled all the batsmen with pace and bounce. Farveez Maharoof helped himself to two wickets in an over - including that of Bashar for a second-ball duck - and with the fast bowlers striking the early blows, Muralitharan's relative lack of success hardly mattered. Sri Lanka's effort in the field was out of the top drawer too - Sangakkara pulled off a one-handed stunner to dismiss Shahriar Nafees, while Jayawardene and Dilshan were terrific in the field - and in all, they did enough to suggest that they could be in contention come the first week of November.
Sanath Jayasuriya lbw b Rasel 31 (67 for 1)
Beaten by one which nipped back and struck him in front of middle-and-off
Mahela Jayawardene c Aftab b Razzaq 35 (130 for 2)
Swept from outside off straight to short midwicket
Kumar Sangakkara c Mortaza b Rafique 22 (193 for 3)
Down the pitch and chipped to wide long-on
Upul Tharanga b Mortaza 105 (244 for 4)
Missed a heave across the line
Marvan Atapattu c Reza b Rasel 40 (260 for 5)
Slogged to long-on
Farveez Maharoof run out (Reza) 0 (1 (262 for 6)
Direct hit from short cover to the non-striker's end
Chaminda Vaas c Reza b Razzaq 4 (273 for 7)
Top-edged a slog-sweep to deep midwicket
Muttiah Muralitharan run out (Mortaza) 11 (295 for 8)
Direct hit from cover, batsman airborne as he tried to avoid the throw
Shahriar Nafees c Sangakkara b Vaas 5 (22 for 1)
Outstanding one-handed diving catch off an outside edge
Mohammad Ashraful c Sangakkara b Fernando 18 (55 for 2)
Tickled a short one down the leg side
Aftab Ahmed c Sangakkara b Maharoof 33 (78 for 3)
Gloved a pull, the ball lobbed up to the keeper
Habibul Bashar c Jayawardene b Maharoof 0 (78 for 4)
Guided to second slip
Farhad Reza st Sangakkara b Muralitharan 34 (141 for 5)
Down the pitch and missed a heave, the ball rolled to the keeper who whipped off the bails
Khaled Mashud run out (Jayawardene) 8 (155 for 6)
Direct hit to the non-striker's end from short point after the batsmen attempted a quick single
Mohammad Rafique c Vaas b Jayasuriya 12 (177 for 7)
Slog-swept to wide long-on
Mashrafe Mortaza b Vaas 30 (226 for 8)
Moved outside leg to slog a yorker and missed
Abdur Razzaq b Maharoof 21 (264 for 9)
Shuffled across his stumps and missed a yorker
S Rajesh is stats editor of Cricinfo