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June 28, 2007
After such a brave fight on day three, Bangladesh's demise on the fourth morning was both spectacular and sad. Just 4.4 overs were needed for Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan to dismember the tail. In the end, after the resilience of Javed Omar and Rajin Saleh, the last seven wickets tumbled for a meager 27 runs.
Predictably, the embarrassing capitulation prompted yet more analysis about the state of Bangladesh's cricket. Unfortunately, on the evidence of this result, the much-vaunted progress of this Bangladesh side has been confined to their growing competitiveness in limited-overs cricket.
Thankfully, however, the reality is perhaps not as bleak as the wide margin of victory indicates. Yes, they were crushed, but they were overwhelmed by a strong Sri Lanka team that has a formidable record at the Sinhalese Sports Club in recent years. In the last 12 Tests played since 2001 they have won 10, losing only once to Australia in 2004.
Moreover, they usually win big: six of those victories were by an innings, two were by more the 250 runs and one was by ten wickets. Of all the current Tests nations, only Australia and Pakistan (after a two-day rearguard) averted defeat. Clearly, Bangladesh's defeat needs some context.
This was, statistically, Murali's second-worst Test performance in the past year. During the last seven Test matches he has claimed an incredible 69 wickets, including five ten-wicket hauls, so restricting the Murali to a mere nine victims seems like a fairly decent effort. Certainly, in the second innings after the first day bite in the pitch had evaporated, Bangladesh's top order coped far better, forcing Murali to toil unusually hard on the third day.
The problem for Sri Lanka's opponents these days, though, is that once the top order is breached, Murali and Malinga are deadly against the tail. Picking Murali's doosra is hard enough for the world's best batsmen, requiring you to pick up the slightest of changes in the angle of wrist, but it is a nightmare for the lower order. Likewise, Malinga's unorthodoxy is unsettling and, like Waqar Younis in his toecrushing pomp, his ability to sweep through the lower order addresses a weakness of Sri Lanka teams in the past.
During the second innings the Bangladesh top order, albeit on the flattest of pitches, showed that with application and a solid gameplan they can compile decent totals. There is clearly the potential for the likes of Javed Omar, Shahriar Nafees and Rajin Saleh to construct a solid platform.
The big concern must be whether Habibul Bashar is going to rediscover his batting post-captaincy and whether Mohammad Ashraful can curb a streak of impetuosity, which must be eradicated if he is able to lead by example, without dulling the potency of his natural attacking flair. Promisingly, after the game, he admitted that he has much to learn in his new job and vowed greater application.
Sri Lanka's captain, meanwhile, was not getting carried away with another landslide victory, their eighth in eight Tests, against Bangladesh. "Overall it was a brilliant performance but there are still areas in which we have to improve," Mahela Jayawardene said afterwards.
The most glaring of these was their catching, particularly Kumar Sangakkara who spilled two in the slips. But they will also be hoping for runs from Malinda Warnapura in the second Test, a player that Jayawardene insisted their would back despite a golden duck on debut.
Charlie Austin is Cricinfo's Sri Lankan correspondentFeeds: Charlie Austin
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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