Sri Lanka rattle top order after declaration
It was déjà vu all over again as Sri Lanka, boosted by Kumar Sangakkara's double hundred, stamped their authority for the second day in succession at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium. With the cushion of a 389-run lead, captain Mahela Jayawardene had no hesitation in declaring the innings immediately after Sangakkara reached his landmark, giving his bowlers a shot at the Bangladesh top order.
Bangladesh needed to ensure they had all ten wickets in hand going into the third day, and the racy start provided by their openers - Javed Omar and Shahriar Nafees - was encouraging. Unfortunately, reality hit them hard after Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando struck four quick blows to leave them in tatters at 69 for 4. Another massive innings defeat loomed.
The loss of those late wickets was a reflection of Bangladesh's biggest weakness. The bowlers and batsmen together struggled to maintain the momentum after the initial euphoria. Despite restricting the scoring in the morning on a pitch which slowed down considerably after the opening day, the visitors failed to cling on to opportunities that came their way after Malinda Warnapura's early dismissal, caught at midwicket.
Mahela poked at a delivery by Mashrafe Mortaza just outside the off stump and the outside edge bisected an unusually large gap between Mushfiqur Rahim, the wicketkeeper, and Habibul Bashar at first slip. A thickish outside edge off Sangakkara's bat fell short of Mortaza at slip and raced to the third-man boundary, a half-chance that was to prove extremely costly.
Mohammad Rafique later spilled perhaps the easiest of return catches off Mahela and it stung further when he and Sangakkara latched onto him and pushed the scoring towards lunch.
Shahadat, undeterred by those lapses, was the most potent among the bowlers, landing the ball on a good length and getting appreciable lift. Unfortunately, he lacked support as Mortaza and Mohammad Sharif were off colour and didn't really threaten the batsmen with pace or bounce.
Shahadat's aggression was evident with his persistent grunting, much to the ire of Mahela, who appealed twice to the umpires. Shahadat had the last laugh when Mahela mistimed a pull straight after lunch. The bowler's celebration said it all.
Sangakkara was more prepared to bide his time at the crease as he approached his hundred. Several full deliveries on off stump were pushed straight to the fielders as he struggled to get the placement right. However, he gained in confidence as lunch approached and reached three figures with an emphatic six over Rafique's head.
With the seamers operating from both ends with the new ball after lunch, Chamara Silva and Sangakkara settled into a nice rhythm, with the ball coming on to the bat easily. The pair added a quick 50 off just 68 balls and the frustration began to show in a brief passage of play, as the fielders conceded overthrows off successive balls.
Silva's urgency spurred Sangakkara to up the tempo and he did so in style. He found the gaps with precision, taking both Shahadat and Mortaza to task. Sensing that the seamers weren't effective enough, Mohammad Ashraful threw the ball to Mehrab Hossain Jnr at the fag end of the session and it paid dividends as he struck twice in the same over.
Silva could consider himself unlucky after replays suggested that the bat may have struck the ground while attempting an expansive cover-drive. Two balls later, Tillekaratne Dilshan misread the flight and was comprehensively bowled while giving him the charge.
Prasanna Jayawardene hung around for a brief while before throwing away his wicket, giving Javed Omar the easiest of catches at mid-on. Vaas helped himself to a breezy unbeaten 30, allowing Sangakkara reach his landmark at his own pace.
When they emerged to bat, Nafees and Omar showed no signs of weariness, and anthing overpitched or off target was put away off the meat of the bat. Nafees was the first victim, edging to Prasanna while going for an off-drive off Vaas. Dilhara Fernando's first over was forgettable, conceding three consecutive boundaries to Omar, but he was soon among the wickets when he sent back Rajin Saleh, inducing an outside edge which was pouched brilliantly by Mahela at second slip.
It soon became 55 for 3 when Vaas ended Omar's cameo, trapping him in front. Fernando removed Mehrab, playing on for the second time in succession. Bashar and Ashraful batted out the last few overs and would need to bat out a lot more, with their side trailing by a massive 320 runs. Yet again, it seemed as though there was only pride left to play for.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo