The new ball remained key to the spinners' menace on this P Sara deck, said Lakshan Sandakan, after he took 4 for 140 in the Colombo Test.
Sri Lanka were not particularly effective with either the first or second new ball, taking most of their wickets after the shine had worn off. But they did raise some close lbw shouts, and drew several mistakes from the batsmen, both early in Bangladesh's innings and soon after taking the second new ball. Rangana Herath emerged with the innings' best figures, wiping out the tail to finish with 4 for 82 while seam bowler Suranga Lakmal took 2 for 90, and though Dilruwan Perera did not make a breakthrough, he bowled his 33 overs with good control.
"The wicket became a bit slow, and when the newness of the ball goes, there's nothing much from the pitch," Sandakan said. "You have to toil a bit here and work hard. Rangana aiya and Dilruwan [Perera] aiya bowled in good spots and put good pressure on them, and that's why we were able to get them out. Suranga [Lakmal] aiya also bowled really well, because it's not a pitch that favours quicks and he did his job really well. If you keep the ball as new as possible, I think the spinners have a good chance here."
It was Sandakan who dismissed Bangladesh's top-scorer Shakib Al Hasan in the afternoon session, but he could have had him out for 11 had a catch at deep square leg been held. A couple of chances had gone down off Sandakan's bowling in the first Test in Galle as well, but he was philosophical about the misses. "Having a catch dropped [is] not a new thing for a bowler. Whether you play club cricket or school cricket, catches can be missed. Maybe the catch goes up because it's a very good ball so I try to look at it as a positive and keep trying to bowl good balls."
In addition to the dropped catch off Sandakan, Sri Lanka also spilled a chance off Lakmal, missed a straightforward run-out, and were uncharacteristically sloppy on the field.
Adding to Sandakan's problems was a difficulty bowling to a right-left batting combination. He conceded 4.24 per over as Shakib, the left-hander, forged partnerships of 92 and 131 with right-handers Mushfiqur Rahim and Mosaddek Hossain.
"Changing according to whether the batsman is a left-hander or right-hander is a bit difficult for me, with the way my action is. But we need to be focused on where to bowl to batsmen. I think if you can bowl straight, you'll be able to do something. Whether I bowl the googly or the chinaman or whatever, if I pitch it in the right place, I think I have a good chance - it doesn't really matter whether he's right or left handed."