Bangladesh sink to a new low
The opening day of the second Test at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium turned out to be hopelessly one-sided as Sri Lanka took firm control with a thorough all-round performance. Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan shared the spoils in Bangladesh's capitulation of 62 and the situation went from bad to worse for the visitors, as Malinda Warnapura, on 79 and Kumar Sangakkara, on 51, piled on the runs and extended Sri Lanka's lead to 92 with nine wickets in hand before bad light and rain led to an early finish.
The script bore a strong resemblance to the opening day of the first Test at the SSC, as the Bangladesh batting once again came a cropper and the bowlers struggled to seize the initiative early, this time on a grassy pitch which the home side exploited to the hilt. Malinga's fiery opening burst, brought Bangladesh to their knees, with Muralitharan later wrapping up the lower-order to end the innings just after lunch.
Bowling with vigour and venom, Malinga didn't take too long to strike, trapping Shahriar Nafees plumb in front with a late in-swinger in his first over. Sensing that the batsmen were circumspect against the exaggerated bounce and swing, Malinga varied his length intelligently. Javed Omar was drawn forward to a delivery that just moved away after pitching while Habibul Bashar, under fire of late for his poor batting form, hardly looked a picture of confidence as he edged a good length delivery to second slip, attempting a drive through the covers.
It soon became 22 for 4 after captain Mohammad Ashraful could do nothing to rectify the mess. Warnapura's brilliant reflexes at forward short-leg ended his three-ball stint at the crease. Mehrab Hossain jnr, the debutant, could do very little to support Rajin Saleh, the only player who managed to defy the attack. Dilhara Fernando, who replaced a lackluster Chaminda Vaas, caught Hossain at the crease, getting a wicket off a thick inside edge and the opposition had lost half their side for 33.
Mushfiqur Rahim, in the side for Khaled Mashud, was the first victim of a series of doosras bowled by Muralitharan, as Prasanna Jayawardene snapped up a thick edge. The wickets kept tumbling; Mortaza gave Mahela Jayawardene his third catch of the morning and Mohammad Rafique fell victim to some intelligent field placing by Mahela, caught at deep square-leg by Vaas, attempting a slog sweep. Saleh, the only player who managed double figures, succumbed to Muralitharan, and two balls after lunch, Bangladesh were bundled out for their lowest ever Test score. Muralitharan finished with figures of 4 for 14, complementing Malinga's opening burst of 4 for 25.
To their credit, Bangladesh's opening bowlers - Mashrafe Mortaza and Shahadat Hossain - maintained a restrictive line, not allowing the batsmen to motor along. However, they weren't penetrative enough to make any early inroads, with only the wicket of Michael Vandort to show for through the second session. Vandort, fresh after his century in the first Test, was more intent on seeing off the new ball, but it was a sudden lapse in concentration which led to his departure. Mortaza managed to land the ball on a good length on off stump and Vandort was just a touch late in bringing his bat down on time, as the ball crept between bat and pad and clipped the off stump.
His partner, Warnapura made amends for his first-ball duck in the opening Test in an emphatic manner, whipping Mortaza off his pads the first ball he faced. After a comparatively sedate post-lunch session in which 65 runs were scored at 2.84 runs per over, Sangakkara and Warnapura showed more urgency in the final session. Warnapura clung onto Shahadat, fetching three consecutive fours in an over, first piercing the gap past cover, followed by a firm push past point and then an intentional glide past the slips. He soon brought up his maiden fifty, in his second Test. Ashraful went on the defensive, giving his bowlers extra protection on the leg side and as a result, several well-timed pulls and sweeps found the fielders.
Bangladesh's decision to bring in a third seamer, Mohammad Sharif, didn't make a difference as none of the seamers were able to extract the kind of bounce the Sri Lankans managed. Ashraful brought himself on to support Rafique's left-arm spin, but the batsmen hardly looked troubled. Sangakkara too helped himself to a half century and the signs looked ominous for Bangladesh as the home side looked to consolidate their position.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo