Formidable Fernando powers Sri Lanka to easy win
Dilhara Fernando scythed through a brittle top order and, with Farvez Maharoof providing useful support, ensured Sri Lanka sealed a facile win in the first ODI against Bangladesh at Colombo. The visitors' top order flattered to deceive; at 45 for 0 at the end of 11 overs, chasing 235, they were looking good but then came the familiar collapse. Five quick wickets saw them stutter to 56 for 5, a position from which they never recovered.
Earlier, Chamara Silva and Upul Tharanga traded flair for resilience, overcoming a wobbly start in seamer-friendly conditions, before Silva broke free to lift Sri Lanka to a fighting total. Bangladesh would have been in a far better position but for a woeful fielding performance that let them down. Tharanga, who never settled, Kumar Sangakkara, who was in good touch, and Mahela Jayawardene, who tried to counterattack his way out of trouble, were all offered reprieves. But thanks to the bowlers, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel in particular, Bangladesh had ensured they would be chasing a gettable total.
The equation at the start was simple: 235 runs at 4.68 runs per over. You could either try blazing a start before settling down, or preserve wickets and catch up on the required rate in the middle overs. Bangladesh took the latter route, understandable given the performance of their top order in the Test series.
Both Shahriar Nafees and Tamim Iqbal batted with common sense to see off the new ball. But it was not entirely devoid of strokemaking: Iqbal creamed an overpitched delivery from Lasith Malinga through extra cover while Nafees cut and flicked Maharoof for three boundaries. Sri Lanka were made to think. Malinga resorted to back of length stuff after Tamim hit him for that four. Mistake, for although he choked the runs, he ended up suppressing the strike bowler in him and Jayawardene was quick to replace him with Fernando after just three overs.
However, in the 12th over, things began to go horribly wrong for the visitors. Fernando slanted one across Tamim who had a fatal stab away from the body before trapping Tushar Imran for a duck with a full-pitched delivery. Two wickets in one over and the cat was among the pigeons.
Maharoof, who bowled his full quota at a stretch, removed Shakib Al Hasan with one that angled away before Mohammad Ashraful spontaneously combusted on arrival. He swayed away from two Fernando bouncers before the third, over five deliveries, got him top edging a hook to fine leg. Fernando was not done yet. He got a heavy ball to straighten at Nafees who edged to gully. Farhad Reza and Abdur Razzak indulged in some hit and giggle, tonking six sixes against the spin of Malinga Bandara and Sanath Jayasuriya but it was too little and too late.
It was quite in contrast to the Sri Lankan effort that saw them recover well from an early wobble. Unseasonal showers had drenched the ground on Thursday evening, making conditions difficult for batting. Only eight runs had come in the third Powerplay as Sri Lanka stuttered to 68 for 3 after losing the big three - Jayasuriya, Sangakkara and Jayawardene - at the end of 20 overs. It was then that Silva decided to up the ante. He slapped Razzak through point, swung him over midwicket, before flicking and paddling Reza for boundaries.
Inspired by his partner, Tharanga began to find his range, cutting and pulling short offerings from Razzak and Reza. After Tharanga fell, nicking a drive, Dilshan joined Silva to push the score along. But a double strike - Silva trapped by a Razzak arm ball and Dilshan out slogging Mortaza - allowed Bangladesh to restrict the hosts.
Bangladesh had chosen to bowl in damp conditions on a pitch that offered movement and bounce. After looking listless in the Tests, Mortaza came into his own on a helpful track. He got the ball to repeatedly cut away, troubling the left-handed openers. He teased the outside edge of Tharanga's bat three times in the first four balls of the day before inducing a nick off the fifth, but a diving Mushfiqur Rahim put down the chance.
Mortaza continued to impress and had Tharanga and Jayasuriya fishing at his offcutters. Tharanga, in particular, was vulnerable against the off-stump attack. The only fault with Mortaza's bowling was his inability to shape one back into the left-hander. Jayasuriya tried to break free by going hard against Rasel. He lofted one over mid-on and slog-flicked a six over deep-backward square leg, but was stunned by an offcutter that threaded the bat and pad gap to peg back the off-stump.
Sangakkara edged a back-of-length delivery from Rasel but Shariar Nafees dropped a tough chance at first slip. However, after celebrating the reprieve with two feisty strokes down the ground, Sangakkara fell to a peach of a delivery from Mortaza, landing on middle, cutting away late and inducing a fatal defensive prod.
Rasel became parsimonious after the exit of Jayasuriya and nagged the batsmen with a tight line. Jayawardene fell, trying to break free from the shackles but Silva combined with Tharanga to lift the hosts out of the hole. Ultimately, a not-too-imposing total was to prove more than enough as Bangladesh aided the Sri Lankan effort with their own self-destructive impulse.
Sriram Veera is an editorial assistant on Cricinfo