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The Bulletin by Sriram Veera
June 25, 2007
It was, even by Bangladesh's modest Test standards, quite a collapse. Put into bat, they struggled against the seamers, were clueless against Muttiah Muralitharan, and were shot out for a paltry 89, just after lunch on the opening day in Colombo. Shahadat Hossain struck twice to create a mild flutter in the Sri Lankan camp but an aggressive Mahela Jayawardene, who retired hurt with cramps just before close, and an assured Michael Vandort ensured that the hosts ended the day in a position of immense strength.
Within one hour after lunch break, Sri Lanka had climbed all over the visitors. Mohammad Ashraful's first Test as a captain could not have begun more disastrously. He lost the toss in overcast conditions in the scenic Sinhalese Sports Club and watched his batsmen combust in the middle. Lasith Malinga had the first stab, before Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando widened the wound. Soon Muralitharan came along to turn the knife and say grace.
Muralitharan was at his mesmerising best. A slip, a short leg and a silly-point watched in glee as the balls came down and turned in sharply or left the bemused batsmen. Weak dabs and nervous pokes followed, as did the wickets. He trapped Rajin Saleh in front with a quick one that straightened. He then deceived Shakib Al Hasan, who offered no stroke to a doosra, to push Bangladesh further back. In 42 minutes of play post-lunch Muralitharan wiped out the tail to pick up a five-for to terminate Bangladesh's first innings. Mashrafee Mortaza was deceived by a doosra, Mohammad Rafique played all around one that straightened, and Abdur Razzak had a wild heave, ending up dragging his back feet out of the crease.
In his first spell, Malinga operated on two lengths, gunning for the toe or the throat. Yorkers and bouncers were slung across at rapid pace and the batsmen wilted against the onslaught. After a sedate start, the match came alive in the sixth over. After an over-pitched delivery was flayed by Shahriar Nafees through the off side, Malinga dragged back the length to tease the outside edge. He served a furious bouncer next up but followed it up with a long hop, which was dispatched to the ropes. Two balls later another bouncer crashed into Nafees's chest. In Malinga's next over Nafees pulled a short delivery to the boundary but, a ball later, fell to a fatal flick shot. Suresh Shastri, the first Indian umpire to stand in 50 Tests, gave his first decision in Test cricket to start the slide.
Vaas then joined the fun. He had started off in characteristic fashion, punctuating a slew of inswingers to the right-hand batsman with the ones that angled away. He was quick to note the effectiveness of Malinga's bouncers and hurled a few of them himself. One bruised the arm of Rajin Saleh while a couple reared up at Omar. It was part of the Sri Lankan plan, as evidenced by the field set up for Ashraful.
There were two men at the deep for the hook shot and, after making him wait for 11 deliveries, Fernando bowled a bouncer, and Ashraful obliged by pulling it limply to deep backward square leg.. Fernando had earlier trapped the struggling and strokeless Habibul Bashar with a full-pitched delivery, and picked up his third wicket of the session off the last ball before lunch, when Shahadat, sent ahead of Mashrafe Mortaza, swatted a bouncer to cover.
In Sri Lanka's reply, Shahadat got appreciable lift from a firm track to disconcert the batsman. Malinda Warnapura will like to quickly forget his Test debut. He shuffled back and was caught plumb in front to a Shahadat delivery for a first-ball duck. Like Malinga, Shahadat sent down quite a few bouncers. One of them fetched him Sangakkara's wicket - who top-edged an attempted pull - while a couple of others troubled Jayawardene.
The contest of the afternoon was his battle with Jayawardene. A long leg was in place and a man was put behind the square-leg umpire, halfway to the ropes. Time and again, Shahadat, dubbed 'Sharapova' by the British press for his grunting at release, would slip in a bouncer at Jayawardene and follow up with a few words. Jayawardene, it seemed, took umbrage at the decibel level of the grunting and had a chat with the umpires. The heat was on. In the eighth over, Mahela jabbed at a short delivery to square leg. Shahadat clapped as if to mock Jayawardene, who clearly didn't look impressed with the reaction and drove the next couple of deliveres to the boundary. Shahadat banged the next one short and Jayawardene patted it to right of gully where Mortaza took a diving catch only to see the umpire call it a no-ball.
But Jayawardene stamped his authority in the last session, carting the short-pitched stuff from Shahadat with ease. Jayawardene picked Razzak for special treatment, hitting five boundaries as the left-arm spinner erred on length. He lofted Rafique over long on to go past Aravinda de Silva and became the second highest scorer, after Sanath Jayasuriya, in Test cricket for Sri Lanka.
Giving him assured company was Vandort who looked very compact. He showed a preference to come on the front foot, looking to drive anything on the fuller side. He capitalised whenever the bowlers erred and that happened quite a few times in the last session. Mohammad Rafique offered a few floaters which were drilled away, Shakib Al Hasan was slog-swept over deep midwicket and Ashraful's leg spin was pulled away.
Jayawardene's exit allowed Razzaq to beat Chamara Silva with sharp orthodox left-arm spin but Tillekaratne Dilshan attacked on arrival to shut the window of hope for Bangladesh.
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