Sri Lanka v Bangladesh, 2nd Test, Colombo, 2nd day March 16, 2017

'I think one rash shot made trouble for us' - Samaraweera

Sabbir Rahman was among Bangladesh's batsmen to fall softly towards the close of play © Associated Press

Fast bowlers bowling from both ends, light fading quickly and a tailender at the other end; you knew for years that even in this sort of a situation, Thilan Samaraweera would keep Sri Lanka safe at the end of a day's play. He thrived under pressure for much of his career, always ensuring that his own style would be shelved if the team needed patience in the middle.

At the P Sara Oval four years ago, he batted with Suraj Randiv against New Zealand in fading light and negotiated a tough period in the last half an hour. He moved the scoring along as much as possible but made sure nothing went out of hand as New Zealand tried really hard to remove him.

Back on the same ground, but now as Bangladesh's batting consultant, Samaraweera was tasked with explaining why his team lost three wickets in the last 22 balls of the second day. Why Bangladesh looked like a batting unit who suddenly, and possibly without any instructions to do so, changed their approach in the last hour or so.

Imrul Kayes and Sabbir Rahman would have been the best people to ask why they threw away Bangladesh's comfort of 192 for 2 with only 3.2 overs of play remaining in the day. Imrul didn't read a Lakshan Sandakan wrong'un and was bowled for 34, a few overs after he was dropped in the deep by Dinesh Chandimal.

Sabbir's dismissal looked even more ordinary when he popped a catch to leg gully a few deliveries after Suranga Lakmal and Rangana Herath had set a predominantly leg-side field. The moment Lakmal pitched it short, Sabbir swivelled and mistimed a pull, lobbing an easy chance to leg gully.

Samaraweera's job nowadays includes explaining the unexplained, like he did in Hyderabad last month.

"I have no clue at the moment," Samaraweera said. "I think one rash shot made trouble for us - Imrul's dismissal. I can teach skill, but you know when you are batting in Test cricket what the opposition is doing, you have to have awareness. I think you have to be intelligent in the middle and we are lucky we finished with five [down], I thought [we would] finish with six. Hopefully, tomorrow is a better day. The first half an hour is crucial. We have to start well again and we need one good partnership."

The sixth wicket that Samaraweera had feared would also fall in the last few overs could have been of Shakib Al Hasan. Off the eight balls he faced, four were hacks across the line. Of those, one was dropped by Upul Tharanga and another fell short of Chandimal - both in the deep on the leg side.

When asked about Shakib's cameo, Samaraweera only had this to say: "I don't have words, honestly."

Perhaps this is what some of the Bangladesh batsmen set out to do in the last few overs; maybe it is part of the natural game that they so often talk about with such conviction?

Samaraweera's answer seemed to be something he has time and again shared with the batsmen in the dressing room, but one that is not necessarily heeded.

"You can play a natural game but you have to be aware of what the opposition is doing. That is cricket. What the opposition is doing, what is the field placement, what's coming - that is the key. You can't play your natural game every day. It is not like one-day cricket; in five-day cricket mentally you have to be strong," Samaraweera said.

By the time another question came his way about what the batsmen were doing in the last few overs, Samaraweera was probably a bit exasperated by it all.

"Honestly, I am out of ideas. The same thing happens every time. When we start to collapse we cannot control it. Tomorrow is a new day, hopefully, we can get close to Sri Lanka's score."

As the batting consultant, it is his job to impart the best of his knowledge to the Bangladesh batsmen. The support staff includes Chandika Hathurusingha, by now regarded as Bangladesh's most successful head coach, as well as Courtney Walsh, a bona fide legend of the game who is now on his first coaching job, as Bangladesh's bowling coach. It is very hard to imagine any one of these three men not giving the right kind of advice to the batsmen going out to bat.

So when the public is shocked seeing how Imrul goes across the line, Sabbir feathers one around the corner to leg gully and Shakib goes hack, hack, hack with only two overs left to play, we can be sure that even those inside the dressing room, who are paid to give them the best advice, are left equally surprised.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84

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