Sri Lanka ponder selectors' wisdom as batting fails

Charlie Austin

July 28, 2002

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Sri Lanka's controversial decision to field an under-strength side in this ACL Cables Second Test against Bangladesh proved costly as the tourists produced their most disciplined performance of the series, restricting the hosts to 301 for eight at the close.

It's too early to say whether Sri Lanka will be forced to rue their decision to rest nine established players for this game, but on the basis of Bangladesh's efforts in the field today, they will think twice before making such wholesale changes in future.

Certainly Sanath Jayasuriya, who had voiced his unhappiness with the controversial omission of key players last week, wants Bangladesh to be taken more seriously in the future.

"They showed us today that they cannot be taken lightly," he said after the close. "They bowled really well - both the fast bowlers who showed good direction and the spinners who did an excellent job in the afternoon."

Nevertheless, Jayasuriya was not best pleased with the performance of his batsmen: "It was really disappointing that the batsmen got themselves out after getting well set. We can't afford that - when someone gets settled they have to go on and play a long innings."

At one stage, it looked like Sri Lanka would finish the day with control, but they lost four wickets in the last hour, gifting Bangladesh the moral advantage. Jayasuriya was annoyed: "We lost too many wickets in the later stages - we should have been 301 for five at the close."

Sri Lanka had started the day well enough - albeit cautiously after being sent into bat on a pitch that's notoriously lively (by sub-continental standards) during the first morning of a Test - losing only Jehan Mubarak (24), 21, one of three debutantes for the home side, before lunch.

But immediately after the break they started to encounter more problems, as Bangladesh captain Khaled Mashud threw the ball to his spinners. The left-handed Naveed Nawaz, another winning his first cap, was caught behind for 21 two balls after the resumption whilst attempting a square cut.

Michael Vandort, particularly impressive off the front foot, then added 41 with fellow left-hander Hashan Tillakaratne (18), reaching his first Test fifty in the process, before two wickets in two overs left Sri Lanka reeling on 133 for four.

Vandort was trapped lbw for 61 by a leg-break from Alok Kapali that skidded onto his pads, whilst Tillakaratne, who had been rested in the first game, offered off-spinner Fahim Muntasir a simple return catch.

Jayasuriya and Thilan Samaraweera, axed from the Test side in England despite averaging 87.17 in his first nine matches, were then forced to consolidate. Both Muntasir and Kapali bowled frugal spells and had Samaraweera been snapped up at mid-wicket when he had made just 10, Sri Lanka could have been in even deeper trouble.

But, gradually, Jayasuriya started to assert his authority, using the tea interval as an opportunity to raise the tempo. After the break he scored at a run a ball, galloping past his fifty on towards his 11 Test century. However, with the Bangladesh fielding becoming increasingly ragged, left-armer Monjural Islam conjured up a perfect outswinger to end the 127 run partnership.

Wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene, anxious to prove that he can contribute with bat as well as with his deft glovework, feathered a catch behind in the same over.

Samaraweera, displaying characteristic obduracy, inched pass his fifty, the fourth of his short career, as Upul Chandana (20) provided Bangladesh with further reason to cheer when he drove straight into the hands of extra cover.

Then, just moments before the close, Islam, the pick of the Bangladeshi seamers, claiming three for 35 from 17 overs, induced a rare moment of indiscretion from Samaraweera, as the right-hander slashed into the hands of first slip.

Bangladesh may well have lost their last five Tests by an innings, as well as 11 of the 12 that they have played, but the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan now means that they do now have an opportunity to press for their first Test victory.

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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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