Bangladesh batsmen fail to adjust to conditions
The term 'external shock' belongs to the world of economics but the phrase can also possibly explain the effects that factors like a sporting pitch or a slow outfield can have on the Bangladesh batsmen. On the first day of the second Test, they put together a below-par performance on what turned out to be a good batting pitch. The outfield was frustratingly slow but the effects of that should have been restricted to the viewers. The 21st-century sportsman is expected to be adept at handling shocks.
As soon as the fifth ball of the match stopped short in front of the boundary rope, it was evident that it would be a long day for the batsmen. Bangladesh picked up 12 boundaries and a six in the 83.3 overs they batted, in addition to 34 twos and eight threes. Most of these twos and threes came in the first 56 overs, before the innings' highest partnership came along. Nasir Hossain and Sohag Gazi got 59 out of the 20-odd overs they batted for the seventh wicket partnership against a much older ball, but until then it was a different story.
Two backfoot punches and two drives from Mominul Haque got caught up in the outfield and he had to settle for three runs on all four occasions. Nasir Hossain and Jahurul Islam also missed out on boundaries on more than one occasion. They had to settle for twos and, as the innings went into the third session, the Sri Lankan outfielders came in a few metres because the ball wouldn't go too far.
In the three previous Tests in the 2012-13 season, Bangladesh had batted at a higher tempo during the first 56 overs of their first innings. In Galle, the batsmen picked up 23 boundaries in the first 56 overs, which helped the batting order settle into a rhythm. They hit more boundaries in Khulna (26) and Dhaka (31) against West Indies and, although it gave them a varied score in those innings, it suited them. They tend to find a proper tempo by hitting boundaries.
The criticism is not about their inability to find boundaries - that depends largely on their individual skills and it was actually quite difficult to take the ball over the ropes in this outfield. The batsmen should have understood the need to adapt to conditions as soon as it was quite clear what the outfield or the pitch offered.
This is where many a Bangladeshi batting line-up in the past and present has struggled. They do not deal well with the externalities and seemingly struggle whenever something out of the ordinary happens in a cricket match.
One would have thought scoring 638 runs in the previous Test would have given them an insight into handling large phases of the game but this seems like a long-term problem which, given the cricket schedules these days, would have to be solved by trial-and-error. In Test cricket, the margin for error is minimal so they could struggle whenever the conditions are not what they had expected it to be.
Though it finished badly, the innings had early promise when Jahurul and Mohammad Ashraful batted diligently in the first session. But the eagerness to pick up boundaries was bubbling under the surface. It probably resulted in Mohammad Ashraful's run out, and it certainly affected Jahurul's mindset in the second session when he chased at a wide one after painstakingly settling himself down for nearly three hours.
Mahmudullah fell to a forceful shot but he could call himself unlucky after the ball had deflected off the wicketkeeper's pad and was well caught by the Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews. There was no footwork and he had not scored a boundary off the 25 deliveries he had played until then. Mushfiqur Rahim's dismissal could not be directly blamed on the lack of speed of the outfield, but was influenced by what was happening at the other end and probably put him in doubt against Rangana Herath.
Mominul Haque looked calmer than most of the batsmen on the first day, but he too has been known to rely on finding boundaries. He looked comfortable for most of his 98-ball innings and later said it was a good pitch to bat on.
It is hard to say which of the other batsmen would agree with him. There has to be more emphasis on having batsmen mentally prepared for scenarios beyond their control. It can be done through training camps in a build-up to a series, but a lot of these adjustments have to be made as they play. It doesn't sound easy, but neither is playing Test cricket.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent