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Test matches (2): Sri Lanka 2, Bangladesh 0
One-day internationals (3): Sri Lanka 3, Bangladesh 0
Bangladesh arrived in Sri Lanka with a new self-assurance, confident they could build upon the glimmerings of promise shown during their recent tour of England, where they had shocked everyone with a one-day victory over Australia. Dav Whatmore, their Australian coach, predicted a "two-horse race". However, the tour was soon knocked off course, first by injuries, then by internal discord that culminated in a public training-ground argument between Whatmore and the experienced spinner Mohammad Rafique.
On the field, Sri Lanka's supremacy in their favourite home conditions was never threatened, and the margins of victory were so wide in all five international matches that once again Bangladesh's Test status became the subject of debate. It was hard to imagine a greater contrast with the pulsating Ashes series, which was reaching a climax as these low-key games were played out before tiny crowds.
Not unexpectedly, Muttiah Muralitharan posed the greatest threat with the ball, growing steadily more menacing as his injured shoulder, which had kept him on the sidelines for nearly a year, recovered. His controversial doosra, now seemingly cleared by the ICC, was a particularly dangerous weapon, and he finished with 14 wickets at just 9.64 apiece.
By the end, after Bangladesh's fourth successive three-day innings defeat of the year - the 35th defeat in their 40-Test history - deep disappointment was unavoidable. Habibul Bashar described it as "the worst tour since I took over the captaincy", and he was flummoxed by Bangladesh's sudden turn for the worse: "I don't understand why the team showed such an uninspiring performance after a great victory in England. I think mental attitude was the main reason behind the disaster."
The reality was, however, that Sri Lanka - always tough to beat at home - were playing their most assertive and disciplined cricket for some time. Tom Moody's arrival as coach in July, coupled with a settling-down of the off-field politics that had marred the early part of the year, ensured that the team was well-drilled, free from internal rifts, and confident.
The only slight encouragement for Bangladesh was the performance of their two young fast bowlers, 19-year-old Shahadat Hossain and the new left-arm seamer Syed Rasel, 21. They were required to fill the void left by the withdrawal of Mashrafe bin Mortaza, who broke down with back trouble and failed to complete a tour for the sixth time, and an ankle injury to Tapash Baisya. They both bowled with great heart, and excelled at the start of the Second Test, reducing Sri Lanka to 48 for four. But they could not stop them piling up match-winning totals, and the middle order scored heavily, especially Tillekeratne Dilshan.
Bangladesh's batting was a major disappointment, too. Habibul was the only one to make more than 100 runs in the series: 127 in four innings. Mohammad Ashraful provided glimpses of brilliance, especially his riotous 41-ball 42 in the Second Test, but consistently wasted good starts.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Sri Lanka Cricket XI v Bangladeshis at Moratuwa, Aug 28, 2005
Tour Match: Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI v Bangladeshis at Colombo (Colts), Sep 7-9, 2005
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