Sri Lanka prosper in one-sided affair

Charlie Austin

September 6, 2001

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It was cricket at its one-sided worst. Sri Lanka arrogantly decided to bowl first on a shirtfront of a pitch and swept through a paper-thin Bangladesh line-up in double quick time before their batsmen went on a greedy run spree at the Sinhalese Sports Club on Thursday.

Sponsors, broadcasters and spectators (who had at least been enticed with free entrance) had expected as much and stayed well away from an Asian Test Championship match that was always going to attract little interest so soon after Sri Lanka's 2-1 Test series win against India.

For the sadistically minded cricket fan there were moments to cherish, including yet another five-wicket haul by Muttiah Muralitharan, blistering 89 off 56 balls from Sanath Jayasuriya and an elegant 99 not out from Marvan Atapattu but, all-in-all, there would have been greater tension at an impromptu softball game on Galle Face Green.

Sri Lanka bowled out Bangladesh for just 90 runs in 36.4 overs, which was the tourist's lowest total in their short five-Test baptism and the lowest ever score made against Sri Lanka in their 112-Test career, before there batsmen piled up 246 for one in just over three hours of batting, to give them a daunting 156 run lead at the close.

Atapattu had set the tone for the innings with three exquisite cover drives for four in the first over of the innings, but it was Jayasuriya who stole the limelight, as he came close to clobbering one of the all time fastest Test centuries.

He reached his fifty off just 35 balls with a pull for six, as second fifty of the innings came up in just 22 balls and took Sri Lanka into tea on 115 without loss after just 15 overs.

After the interval in continued in the same disdainful vein before he was trapped leg-before wicket by off spinner Naimur Rahman for 89 off 56 balls, having hit eleven fours and four sixes, two of which were carved over cover.

Bangladesh fought-back bravely in the final two hours of the day and could have picked up further wickets if they had not spilled two chances at first slip off Atapattu.

Nevertheless, Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara, who retained the number three position despite the inclusion of Michael Vandort earlier in the day, added 102 runs for the second wicket.

Atapattu finished the day on 99, agonisingly short of his eighth Test century and Sangakkara was left on 49 not out. The only ones having sleepless nights, however, will be the middle order batsmen waiting in the dressing, who may be concerned that they are going to miss out on a chance to boost their Test averages tomorrow.

Bangladesh had started the day in disastrous fashion when they lost three early wickets to the new ball: Javed Omar (7) played inside a straight delivery and edged a simple catch to first slip, Habibul Bashir (4) was cleaned bowled by an inswinger in Vaas's next over and Aminul Islam (6) was caught behind off Ruchira Perera's first ball of the day.

Opener Mehrab Hossain and middle order batsman Al Shahriar then staged a mini fight back, adding 28 runs for the fourth wicket, before the tourists lost four wickets for four runs after the introduction of Muralitharan in the 19th over of the innings.

Al Shahriar (16) edged Muralitharan's cleverly-disguised arm ball, opener Mehrab's (23) patient resistance ended when he was run out and both Naimur Rahman and Khaled Mashud were bowled for ducks in the last over before lunch.

After the interval teenage debutante Mohammad Ashraful held up the home team with an entertaining 26, which included three boundaries in one over from Chaminda Vaas, who cruelly greeted the new boy with a succession of short balls.

Nevertheless, Bangladesh's resistance did not last long and 41 minutes after lunch the bowlers had their feet up in the balcony, facing the pleasant prospect of two days rest before they are next needed.

In the morning Sri Lanka announced three changes to the side that defeated India on Sunday: Russel Arnold made way for debutante Michael Vandort after 27 consecutive Tests and fast bowlers Ruchira Perera and Ravindra Pushpakumara replaced Dulip Liyanage and the injured Dilhara Fernando.

Bangladesh made two changes to the side that lost by an innings and 264 runs to Pakistan in the first game of the championship at Multan last week: Ashraful, just 16 years old, came in place of left-arm spinner Enamul Haque and middle order batsman Al Shahriar, 23, replaced the experienced Akram Khan.

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Charlie Austin Sri Lanka editor When Charlie Austin left for Sri Lanka after graduating from Sussex University, he was a planning a winter's cricket in the tropics and a six-month stint with an environmental NGO. His mother's worst fears were soon realised when it became clear that he had fallen in love with the island. Six months have now become eight years and Colombo has become his home. He joined Cricinfo in February 2000 and now heads operations in Sri Lanka, responsible for both sales and editorial. He is also the director of a UK-based travel company called Red Dot Tours, and is currently ghosting Muttiah Muralitharan's autobiography.
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