Tillakaratne Dilshan masterminds easy victory
Tillakaratne Dilshan made 2009 his own, scoring ten centuries in all forms, and he didn't start too badly in the new year either, compiling another robust ton to guide Sri Lanka to an easy win in the tri-series opener. Bangladesh gave a good account of themselves with the bat in getting to 260, but their bowlers lost the battle against Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and the dew.
Defending totals under lights will pose a challenge to all teams in this competition, with the dew factor kicking in, and tonight, Bangladesh were bitten after losing the toss. Shakib Al Hasan said this was a "minimum 250" wicket and his batsmen obliged. Early into the Sri Lankan chase, they realised that they were at least 30 short.
The opening over by the debutant Shafiul Islam was a sign of things to come, as he leaked ten runs. Upul Tharanga was in fine touch, caressing the ball square of the wicket on the off side with very little effort. Bangladesh had packed the off-side field to restrict the left-handers but both Tharanga and Sangakkara managed to pierce them.
However, Tharanga threw it away, chasing a delivery angled across him. Sangakkara was very harsh on anything wide of the off stump and played some delightful drives along the ground. The instinctive Dilshan didn't mind hitting it in the air, clearing his back leg to pull and clip it over midwicket. In the process, he went past 4000 runs in ODIs.
Shakib wasn't amused. Early in the chapter, he showed his frustration by placing his hands on his head, without a clue about what to do. He brought himself on in the sixth over after his seamers had already leaked 52. Not that the introduction of spin made any difference. Shakib, Abdur Razzak and Mahmudullah were impeded by the dew, which didn't allow them to grip the ball properly.
They often dropped it flat and quick, in order to get the ball to skid through, but Sangakkara and Dilshan managed to get on top of them, rocking on the backfoot and crashing it past the infield. Both proceeded towards their half-centuries at the same pace, reaching their milestones in the 21st over, bowled by Razzak.
Sangakkara was also heading towards a century but fell off a very loose shot, tamely edging Shafiul to the wicketkeeper. Dilshan continued to grind the opposition, nudging it in the gaps for singles and pounding the off boundary. He was harsh on anything short and rendered the spinners impotent with his sweeps. He brought up his hundred with a slash off Mohammad Ashraful past point. The Bangladesh fielding too wasn't upto the mark, and those extra runs only hastened Sri Lanka's progress.
Dilshan suffered a scare when he suffered a groin strain while turning for a second run. Sangakkara came out as a runner and hung around almost till the very end, before a full-blooded pull by Dilshan landed in Naeem Islam's hands at short midwicket. Dilshan walked off for 104 and Sri Lanka will wait on his fitness for their second game tomorrow against India. Thilan Samaraweera then sealed what was a very one-sided period of play under lights.
It took Bangladesh a lot of hard work and concentration to get to a formidable score. It was not without some anxious moments though, when the top order pushed the self-destruct button to lose four wickets for the addition of nine runs. The score went from 65 for 0 to 74 for 4 primarily through irresponsible batting. Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal and Shakib all perished in that manner, trying to clear the infield when it really wasn't required. Raqibul Hasan fell to a stunning one-handed take by Samaraweera at second slip and that was the only top order wicket which wasn't gifted away.
By the 17th over, Bangladesh had to start all over. Ashraful and Mushfiqur Rahim scripted a steady and patient recovery with dogged resistance. Ashraful was forced to look for the singles, which the pair managed to do fairly easily during their 58-run stand for the fifth wicket. They were more focused on accumulation rather than domination.
Ashraful didn't change gears after Mushfiqur departed and continued grafting against the spinners, this time with Mahmudullah for company. Incredibly, Ashraful picked up his first boundary off his 37th ball - a loft over extra cover off Thilina Kandamby - in sharp contrast to the way he normally plays. It's a style of play he's getting used to, after being criticised time and again in his career for throwing his wicket away after making a start.
His 75 was significant mainly because it kept the Sri Lankans at bay, helped the innings last the entire 50 overs, something Bangladesh have struggled to do in the past. Naeem's final-over fireworks (off Suranga Lakmal) pushed the score past 250 and as the Bangladesh players walked off in satisfaction, there was hope of a contest. An hour and a half later, those smiles vanished.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo