Chandimal's scruffy ton comes with a lesson
Dinesh Chandimal will have fond memories of achieving his maiden Test hundred, despite the perilous path he took to get there. For the Bangladesh players who watched him make an unbeaten 116, there are lessons to pick up from the young batsman's undaunted focus, as they seek to reduce the deficit on the third day.
The 23-year-old Chandimal offered four catches, all of which were dropped, and survived a close leg-before shout during his 151-ball innings. Yet throughout all this, he didn't abstain from playing his shots. He hardly looked bothered by the happenings around him, as he hurtled along. Compared to the centuries by Kumar Sangakkara on the first day, and Lahiru Thirimanne, who also got to his first in Tests, Chandimal's was much riskier, but it spoke of the ease with which he handled self-inflicted blows with confidence.
The first three chances came thick and fast from Chandimal. The first he prodded airily at, but the edge wasn't held by Jahurul Islam at gully. Several minutes later Abul Hasan threw himself belatedly at fine leg, only to drop the offering. The third chance during that spell came another over later when he chipped one towards midwicket, and Jahurul dove forward, but didn't grasp it fully.
But as they dropped catches and felt aggrieved by their lack of traction on proceedings, they should have picked up on Chandimal's tenacity. Bangladesh batsmen in the past, and present, have had a hard time dealing with the "little things", as coaches like to call them.
These breaks in focus come from a range of incidents. From a slight break in play due to sightscreen adjustments, a loud appeal or some sledging, to more complicated matters like a bowling change, a dropped catch, a run-out, a session break, the impending end to a day, or when the batsman at the other end gets out. The Bangladesh batsmen often have a break in concentration as soon as something out of the ordinary happens.
Out of the two wickets that fell on the second day, Anamul Haque's unnecessary ploy of trying to go inside out against Ajantha Mendis falls into this category. Against a new bowler who has a bagful of tricks, the sensible approach would have been to pick Mendis' variations, before trying anything against the spin. But as soon as the bowler came on, Anamul began moving around too much in the crease. This resulted in his dismissal after batting so diligently till that point.
Against West Indies in 2011, Mushfiqur Rahim threw away a potentially match-saving innings, right after Shakib Al Hasan had got out playing an ugly shot, failing to keep his focus on the job ahead. Raqibul Hasan found it hard to deal with loud appeals by West Indian medium-pacers during the same series, while Shakib once ran all the way to a person who hadn't moved from in front of the sightscreen. All of these batsmen are exceptionally talented, but they often lack the edge that young batsmen from other countries seem to have. This is almost certainly due to more practice in dealing with such things in their domestic circuit.
Chandimal handled it differently this time. He batted to his strengths and backed himself every time. One must also remember that he is the new vice-captain who almost missed this Test match because he was part of the recent contract dispute with the Sri Lanka board. As he moved past the initial anxiety, he took full advantage of width offered by the fast bowlers. He was severe on the spinners too, making sure he got to the pitch of the ball, and taking it on the full, as he drove regularly, occasionally clearing the infield.
Chandimal probably gained clarity from the chance that was dropped at midwicket, as he immediately went after Sohag Gazi, the bowler who suffered the last of those drops, taking two boundaries off him with assured footwork. On 31, Elias Sunny had him caught on the crease off his first ball of the morning but it was turned down, and the innings hurtled along. A few runs after he had reached the coveted century, Chandimal hit one straight to long-on where Mahmudullah dropped a sitter. It was that sort of a day for Bangladesh as they struggled to balance a better day for the bowlers with a terrible one from the fielders.
After his century on the first day, Sangakkara asked youngsters like Chandimal, new captain Angelo Mathews and Thirimanne to aim for "35 to 40 Test hundreds" by the end of their respective careers. The manner in which Chandimal went about his maiden ton, there will be greater hope towards the realisation of this goal. Hundreds are commended if the batsman offers little, but sometimes when he can withstand a number of distractions and still get there, some praise should also go his way.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent