Sri Lanka bludgeon Bangladesh again
A slew of wickets after tea undid all the hard work put in by Bangladesh earlier in the day as Sri Lanka won by an innings and 90 runs at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium to seal the series 2-0 with one Test to play. The day witnessed a spirited fightback by Bangladesh, led by captain Mohammad Ashraful's unbeaten 129 and Mushfiqur Rahim's 80, but, as has been their problem, the momentum slipped and they handed the home side another comprehensive win.
With just one wicket in two sessions of play, something had to give for Sri Lanka and the change of fortune came about immediately after tea. Muttiah Muralitharan ended Rahim's remarkable resistance as he gleefully accepted the easiest of return catches. Mahela Jayawardene had no hesitation in taking the new ball and Chaminda Vaas - who was ineffective through the day - prised out two wickets in successive balls to sink Bangladesh's hopes further.
Mohammad Sharif and Mashrafe Mortaza were both squared up by deliveries that jagged back in after pitching, catching them at the crease. Mohammad Rafique was the first of two run-out victims, attempting a needless second run. Shortly after, Shahadat Hossain had no chance of making the crease as his run-out sealed the defeat, leaving Ashraful stranded.
Defeat aside, Asharful's rearguard effort, with his side up against the inevitable, was commendable. Faced with a massive deficit of 320, Bangladesh needed a player or two in the Shivnarine Chanderpaul mould to grind the attack and Ashraful did just that, curbing his aggressive instincts for the sake of his side. Both Ashraful and Rahim cut out the flamboyance and instead waited for the loose deliveries to push the scoring.
|The most striking feature of Bangladesh's batting was the way the pair took Muralitharan to task. Flatter deliveries were quietly defended with soft hands and the doosras, for a change, weren't effective. Rahim wasn't afraid to advance down the track whenever Muralitharan flighted the ball, getting to the pitch of it and clearing the infield, fetching a six over deep midwicket. Ashraful too found his feet against Muralitharan, fetching boundaries on both sides of the wicket to bring up his half century|
Given the number of natural strokemakers in the line-up, their approach in the first two sessions was a sign of maturity. After Habibul Bashar departed for another poor score - bowled through the gate by Dilhara Fernando - with all senior batsmen back in the pavilion, Ashraful found able support in Rahim. The pair added 191 for the sixth wicket - a record for Bangladesh in Tests - and what stood out was the ease in which they negotiated Lasith Malinga and Muralitharan, compared to Bangladesh's first innings capitulation of 62. On a slow pitch which slowed down considerably after the first day, Sri Lanka struggled to get the breakthroughs as their strike bowlers were unable to deliver.
The most striking feature of Bangladesh's batting was the way the pair took Muralitharan to task. Flatter deliveries were quietly defended with soft hands and the doosras, for a change, weren't effective. Rahim wasn't afraid to advance down the track whenever Muralitharan flighted the ball, getting to the pitch of it and clearing the infield, fetching a six over deep midwicket. Ashraful too found his feet against Muralitharan, fetching boundaries on both sides of the wicket to bring up his half century.
Malinga did his bit, getting the old ball to reverse swing at appreciable pace but the pair negotiated those with no fuss and deliveries on a good length were defended with the meat of the bat and anything dug in short was met with a duck and a weave. The signs of frustration were evident in the home side, with Tillakaratne Dilshan coming on before tea to induce a false stroke or two. Prasanna Jayawardene even stood up to the stumps to Vaas, a ploy which failed as Ashraful played some crisply timed shots to the off side. His placement was near perfect with each shot, forcing Jayawardene to beef up the off side field. Ashraful brought up his century before tea and it seemed like the home side were in for a scare as the deficit narrowed down.
Unfortunately, the application was found wanting after tea and Sri Lanka clawed back, exposing Bangladesh's inexperience at Test level. They succumbed to their third consecutive innings defeat and have only pride to play for in the third and final Test in Kandy starting July 11, a dead rubber.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo