Sri Lanka secure tenth consecutive win on home soil
Sri Lanka completed formalities shortly before the scheduled luncheon interval on the fourth day, bowling out Bangladesh for 184 to secure their tenth consecutive victory on home soil; and their first win without the services of Muttiah Muralitharan since the off-spinner started his career in 1992.
The tourists, led by 17-year-old Mohammad Ashraful, who confirmed his potential after a lean period since becoming the youngest ever Test centurion last September, kept the Sri Lankans at bay for the first hour before a collapse that saw six wickets fall for 17 runs.
The right-handed Ashraful scored 75 from 120 balls, hitting 12 boundaries, adding 68 runs for the fifth wicket with Alok Kapali (23), whose all-round performance on his debut Test drew praise afterwards from coach Mohsin Kamal.
But mid-way through the morning off-spinner Thilan Samaraweera dismissed both players within the space of eight minutes: Kapali was brilliantly caught by Jehan Mubarak diving to his right at short leg off bat-pad, whilst Ashraful was unfortunate to have also adjudged to have been caught at short leg off pad only - the luck, not for the first time in this game, not going Bangladesh's way.
Left-armer Sujeewa de Silva, replacing Chamila Gamage, who beat the bat repeatedly during his brisk opening five burst, quickly nipped out Tapash Bashar (3), courtesy of a stunning airborne catch by Upul Chandana in the gully, and then Fahim Muntasir (1) with a curling yorker.
Samaraweera wrapped up proceedings, as the close in fielders snapped up two more catches: Manjural Islam (0) and Talha Jubair (0) both completing a pair.
Sri Lanka's celebrations were muted at the end, the captain and coach admitting that the victory, though a welcome after a series of defeats, was of little relevance; the most important aspect of the series being the emergence of fast bowler Chamila Gamage and the batting of Michael Vandort, the Man of the Match here after scores of 61 and 140.
"The results from England are still fresh in the mind and it was important to comeback against Bangladesh as strongly as possible," said coach Dav Whatmore. "A lot of people will say that this is what we are expected to do against Bangladesh, and we are painfully aware of that, but you have to pick up the pieces somewhere."
Sanath Jayasuriya, back smiling again, said: "We may have won this series but you can't say that everything is going our way yet. In these conditions we know we can do it, but we need to prove ourselves outside Sri Lanka and there is a lot of hard work to be done in all departments of our game."
He admitted that defeat in England had affected morale: "The truth is that England badly affected our confidence - we didn't perform up to our own standards and it was very disappointing for the whole team. Slowly we have to get back our old confidence."
The captain, originally uncomfortable with the selector's experimentation in this series, was especially delighted by Gamage's bowling: "Chamila (Gamage) has shown his potential in this match - I think he can compete on the international stage."
"I'm also impressed with the performance of Michael Vandort," he added. "He grabbed his opportunity in this game and showed that he can score runs in the top order."
For Bangladesh it was a familiar tale, coach Mohsin Kamal admitting that it was hard to keep the players positive as the defeats stack up. This was their 12th loss in 13 Tests and the 11th consecutive innings in which they have failed to pass 200.
"It is hard to lose continuously as half of cricket is played in the dressing room," said Kamal, after his first series in charge, "but the guys just have to be positive when they are there preparing themselves."
But he remained upbeat about the future: "We got some youngsters in the side for this match and they showed that they have a lot of talent - they just need more experience in Test and four-day cricket."
He singled out the bowlers for special praise: "The bowlers did well, especi ally yesterday when they were under pressure - they bowled beautifully in the morning, restricting the Sri Lankan batsmen.
"I was also really pleased with the performance of Ashraful. He was under a lot of pressure to score runs after not getting runs in the side matches and not playing in the first Test. He has shown his ability."
Bangladesh can, at least, seek some comfort in the fact that they are not alone in finding it difficult to adjust to the demands of Test cricket: Sri Lanka had to wait 14 matches before their first victory, Zimbabwe took 11 games, India 25 and New Zealand a staggering 45 - Bangladesh will surely not wait that long.