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The Report by Siddarth Ravindran
March 16, 2013
Sri Lanka 18 for 1 trail Bangladesh 240 (Mominul 64, Herath 5-68) by 222 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
In Galle, the score at the end of day one was 361 for 3. At the R Premadasa Stadium, 11 wickets went down on day one. The track in Galle was so lifeless that it drove fans to boredom. The Premadasa pitch wasn't as free-scoring, but the lethargic surface didn't have too much in it for the bowlers either.
Both sides picked three seamers - one more than they usually do in the subcontinent - but even on the opening day the standout performer was Rangana Herath, Sri Lanka's lone spinner and their most bankable bowler of recent years.
In 2011, 33-year-old Herath's career was on the rocks with Sri Lanka seeming to have a plethora of young spinners, but improbably, over the past two years he developed into one of the leading bowlers in the world. He showcased some of that skill on Saturday, with his 15th five-wicket haul, which restricted Bangladesh to 240, and put Sri Lanka ahead in a match they desperately need to win; anything less will mean they have botched the easiest assignment going around in Test cricket.
Though the Bangladesh batting subsided without putting up a testing total, the good news for their fans is that two of the younger batsmen were the highest scorers. Twenty-one-year-old Mominul Haque again showed the poise he had in his debut Test to score his second consecutive half-century, while Nasir Hossain burnished his reputation as one of their most reliable batsmen, with a battling 48 - only the second time in his last seven Test innings that he hasn't scored a half-century.
The batsmen found it difficult to time the ball on the slow pitch and the sluggish outfield meant that threes were almost as common as boundaries. Still, when Mohammad Ashraful and Jahurul Islam were comfortably playing out everything Sri Lanka threw at them in the first session, Angelo Mathews may have been pondering whether opting to bowl was the wisest move, but by tea Bangladesh had lost half their side and reached only 155.
Though Bangladesh were bolstered by the return of the experienced Tamim Iqbal from injury, he didn't last long as he missed the first ball Nuwan Kulasekara bowled from round the stumps to be trapped lbw for 10 in the seventh over.
Jahurul played like an old-school opener early on, prepared to grind it out on a pitch where run-making wasn't easy. Ashraful was also cautious, not dipping into his repertoire of flamboyant shots in his one-hour stay. Bangladesh made slow-and-steady progress to 50 for 1, and had got through the difficult early phase. Just when you thought the two settled batsmen could cash in, Ashraful threw away his wicket, with a lackadaisical bit of running. While completing a quick single, he was looking back to see where the throw from Shaminda Eranga was headed; the throw was arrowing towards the stumps and it caught Ashraful short.
Mominul's entrance picked up the tempo for Bangladesh as he and Jahurul went for their shots after lunch. With the fast bowlers attempting some short deliveries, Jahurul countered with the pull shot. For Mominul the area around point was a profitable one, and Bangladesh went along at nearly four an over early in the second session. Once again just as a partnership was developing, Sri Lanka struck. Eranga, the pick of the quicks after lunch, had Jahurul chasing a ball wide outside off, nicking to the keeper for 33.
Though Mominul top socred, it wasn't exactly a chanceless innings. Soon after Ashraful's dismissal, Mominul could have also been run out off a direct hit, just making his ground on 5, then survived a close lbw call off Suranga Lakmal, and nearly chipped a catch back to the bowler Herath. In between though, there were some assured strokes, including a punch past mid-off for four and a take-that pull off Lakmal.
Even after Jahurul's exit, Bangladesh had moved along to a reasonable 128 for 3, but their position was quickly undermined as they lost both their captain and vice-captain before tea. Mahmudullah was smartly snapped up by Mathews at slip after the edge popped up off the wicketkeeper's pads, and Mushfiqur Rahim was regularly troubled by Herath before being bowled for 7.
When Mominul was caught-behind in the second over of the third session, Bangladesh were 163 for 6 and a quick finish to the innings loomed. Nasir and Sohag Gazi, though, went after the spinners to put on 59, the largest stand of the innings before Herath outwitted Gazi, and the new ball helped Sri Lanka polish off the tail.
Bangladesh got the dangerous Tillakaratne Dilshan in the four over before stumps, but tomorrow will be a huge challenge for their three-pronged pace attack that has little in the way of Test credentials.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Siddarth Ravindran
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