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July 13, 2007
It was a beating if ever there was one. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara combined for a 311-run third-wicket partnership to see Sri Lanka out of early trouble on day three at Kandy and finish off on a position from where Muttiah Muralitharan can press for a clean sweep of the series.
The two Sri Lankans unloaded for 165 and an unbeaten 222, their second hundreds of the series, and proved the best combination to resist what was arguably, in the first hour of play, Bangladesh's best bowling performance all series. Sangakkara hit his second consecutive double hundred to become the highest double-centurion (6) among current Test batsmen.
A right-left combination as comfortable with each other as these two spelt disaster for Bangladesh. Jayawardene and Sangakkara came together on 74 for 2 and by tea 242 had been added effortlessly. It all began with a confident Jayawardene's early strokeplay that saw off the dangerous Syed Rasel and didn't allow the spinners to settle.
The captain took charge of scoring and announced his arrival with two fours and a pulled six off the energetic Shahadat Hossain while Sangakkara, rock solid in defense, only opened up with the introduction of spin in the 30th over. Spin or pace, it didn't matter to Jayawardene, in some form since he ended a drought during the World Cup. He used his feet well against Mohammad Rafique, swiping two against the spin for six over midwicket. Shahadat hustled in before tea and dropped marginally short, and Jayawardene pulled him with disdain. It was that kind of day.
With the pitch having eased out nicely, both senior batsmen upped the tempo in the post-lunch session, toying with the bowling. As he had during his double at the P Saravanamuttu Stadium, Sangakkara was watchful at the start but blossomed in style. Just after the break, the two batsmen scrambled a few singles, rotating the strike, and then Sangakkara reached his fifty with a lovely straight drive off Rafique. In an aggressive 15 minutes after reaching the landmark, Sangakkara took hold of the scoring, lofting Rafique over midwicket and cutting Rasel through point. When the ball was pitched up to his liking, he bent down on his right knee and swept the ball across its line of flight.
From there it was a breeze. Both picked up consecutive boundaries to move into the 80s, and with his score leveled with Sangakkara on 93, Jayawardene moved to 97 with an ondrive and reached three figures first, dabbing Mohammad Ashraful down to third man. It was his 18th Test hundred, and took just 103 deliveries. Sangakkara cut a loose delivery from the same bowler through the covers to get his 14th, and the friends met mid-pitch to celebrate another telling display of batting.
As the day wore on, it became obvious that Jayawardene and Sangakkara were set on batting for big hundreds. Even mistimed chips over the infield landed safely and Bangladeshi shoulders sagged. At 350 for 2 the new ball was taken and Shahadat found some swing in the air but was let down by his captain's choice of just the lone slip. Jayawardene's 150, the seventh such instance he's reached there, came via an intentional uppercut for six over point off him. The 300-run stand came up just after Shahadat was warned for grunting while releasing the ball, a matter which Jayawardene had argued with the officials during the first Test.
The new ball finally worked, albeit against the run of play, as Jayawardene tried one shot too many and tamely chipped Rasel to mid-off for 165 from 210 balls. Rasel plugged away all day and finished with 3 for 104 , but Sangakkara continued to punch sweetly off the back foot to dominate a 60-run association with Chamara Silva (25 from 35). Silva was caught short of his crease when Ashraful got fingers onto a full-blooded drive from Sangakkara.
Sangakkara continued his run spree, putting a full toss away over midwicket to get to 200, as Sri Lanka punished Bangladesh to the tune of 470 runs in the day. Tillakaratne Dilshan pulled the last ball of the day, from Ashraful, for four to take Sri Lanka to 500.
Bangladesh had started the morning - thankfully sunny for once - on a high, led by the bustling Shahadat and the accurate Rasel. While Shahadat used the short deliveries to good effect, Rasel kept it on a good length outside off stump and swung it both ways. Bangladesh had few runs to work with, and these two bowlers backed their captain's choice of a 6-3 offside field. Upul Tharanga was the first to fall as he misjudged a fuller one that came in, and Michael Vandort, still smarting from a blow to the ankle the evening before, drove loosely and lost his leg stump bail through the big gap between bat and pad.
That was the last moment of success the tourists would see for some time, as Jayawardene and Sangakkara grabbed the reins and ran Bangladesh ragged. Barring a serious disturbance from the weather gods, a 3-0 score line looks the likely outcome as Muralitharan looks on menacingly from the pavilion.