August 7, 2002

Sri Lanka stroll to third comprehensive win

Bangladesh's anguish continued at Premadasa International Stadium on Wednesday as Sri Lanka warmed up for the Morocco Cup starting next week with another comprehensive victory.

Although perhaps relieved to have prolonged the match beyond lunchtime, unlike on Monday at the SSC, they had to endure another damming milestone, as they recorded their 50th defeat their 53-match history.

Once again the match was played out in front of largely empty stands despite free entry, the only spectators being the 300 kids coached in by the cricket board from outstation schools and 500 employees of the tournament sponsor.

And public's lack of enthusiasm was hardly surprising after a tour in which the opposition has been so thoroughly outplayed - at no stage looking capable of springing a surprise.

Today they handed the hosts the initiative before the match was even underway, electing to field first at a venue that notoriously favours the side batting first.

Although their medium pacers plugged away effectively during the early part of the day, reducing Sri Lanka to 115 for four halfway through their innings, a 100 run fifth wicket partnership between Russel Arnold and Tillakaratne Dilshan left the home side firmly in control.

Needing to break a 50-game venue record to overhaul Sri Lanka's 258, Bangladesh's innings was soon in tatters despite a flying start that saw them rack up 22 runs off the first two overs.

Chamila Gamage, recalled in this game as both Chaminda Vaas and Dilhara Fernando were rested, struck first, as wicket-keeper Tillakaratne Dilshan flung himself in front of first slip to pouch a thick edge from Al-Sahariar (20).

Mohammad Ashraful (10) clipped lazily into the hands of Upul Chandana at square leg, before debutante Pulasthi Gunaratne claimed two wickets in two balls, trapping Hannan Sarkar lbw and then sending Tushar Imran's middle stump cart wheeling with a perfect yorker.

At 48 for four the match was as good as over, but skipper Khaled Mashud (37) and Habibul Bashar (52) were able to consolidate, adding 65 from 129 balls for the fifth wicket.

But with survival uppermost in their minds, the required run rate soared out of control: 128 runs were needed from the final 15 overs and 101 from the last 10.

Forced to slog aimlessly, Sri Lanka's spinners slowly picked their way through the visitor's middle and lower order, Muttiah Muralitharan finishing with three for 24 from 9.2 overs.

Earlier in the day, the host's top order had struggled to get to grips with the trundling Bangladeshi medium pacers on a typically turgid Premadasa playing surface.

Aravinda de Silva, asked to open the innings in the absence of Sanath Jayasuriya who was rested, started the innings well enough, scoring 46 from 58 balls.

But with stand-in captain Marvan Atapattu (20) chipping to short mid-wicket, Kumar Sangakkara (22) playing onto his stumps as he tried to charge left-armer Monjural Islam and Mahela Jaywardene being caught at the wicket off a square cut, Sri Lanka slipped to 115 for four.

However, Russel Arnold (62), using his new Woodworm Wand, and Dilshan (50) made full use of a rare opportunity for an extended bat, turning around the innings with a 100 run partnership from 106 balls.

Dilshan, fighting for a permanent place in Sri Lanka's top six, was nimble footed against the spinners, unafraid to loft them straight down the ground and quick to seize on anything short.

Arnold, meanwhile, carried on in his normal one-day vein, pinching singles and working twos.

The right-handed Dilshan, sporting a new tightly cropped haircut, had only just finished acknowledging applause for his second fifty in his 16-match career before swinging a catch into outfield.

But, by then, on 214 for five with six overs remaining, Sri Lanka had ensured themselves a competitive total even before Hasantha Fernando displayed his power, hammering 23 from 21 balls at the death.

After the match Mashud was adjudged as Man of the Series for his gritty contributions with the bat and tidy wicket-keeping. Russel Arnold was adjudged Man of the Match for his excellent all-round performance.