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Bangladesh entered their first three-Test series against Sri Lanka with a general air of optimism. Buoyed by qualification for the World Cup Super Eights ahead of neighbours India and Pakistan, they hoped their Test cricket would be injected with a similar vitality and spirit as they sought a second Test win, to follow their single victory over Zimbabwe in January 2005. Sadly, the reality was very different: they were brutally rolled over in the most clinical and emphatic manner.
It could not have been a harsher baptism for Mohammad Ashraful, the 22-year-old captain taking over the reins from Habibul Bashar (who had resigned as one-day captain and lost the Test job after the recent home series with India). Ashraful badly missed the support of coach Dav Whatmore, who had declined a two-year extension to his contract after a four-year tenure; Shaun Williams, the temporary coach, tried to keep Bangladesh afloat, but they lost all three Tests by an innings.
The most acute problem was Bangladesh's top-order frailty in the first innings. In every Test they were put in, and every time they gifted the initiative on the first day, totalling 89 at the Sinhalese Sports Club, a record low of 62 at the P. Saravanamuttu Stadium and 131 at the Asgiriya Stadium in Kandy. During the second innings they were consistently better, but by then they were facing a hopeless cause after Sri Lanka's batsmen racked up huge leads.
Mushfiqur Rahim provided some reason to be hopeful with a delightful, impish 80 in the Second Test, when he came in as wicketkeeper after Khaled Mashud was axed, and Javed Omar followed a solid 62 with a couple of good starts. Those two aside, only Ashraful possessed the skill to resist a potent attack, finishing the series with 218 runs at 43.
Sri Lanka's player of the series, predictably, was the evergreen Muttiah Muralitharan. Sanath Jayasuriya was rested for the Tests (he filled in for Muralitharan at Lancashire, until they swapped places for the one-day series) and Marvan Atapattu, disgruntled with his non-selection during the World Cup, opted to stay in England playing club cricket for Lashings. Muralitharan did not miss this perfect opportunity to chase down Shane Warne's Test record of 708 wickets. Spinning the ball wickedly both ways, he sealed the 3-0 whitewash with his 700th victim, finishing with 26 wickets at ten each. Muralitharan was well supported by the rest of the attack, especially Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando, both bowling with considerable venom and hostility despite the generally docile pitches. Chaminda Vaas was lightly used, bowling just 44 overs in two Tests, and then rested for the final game, when another left-armer, Sujeewa de Silva, made his mark. But Vaas had the satisfaction of reaching a dogged maiden hundred in his 97th Test. Despite playing for Warwickshire in the weeks leading up to the series, Kumar Sangakkara started rustily. But he recovered in determined fashion to score undefeated double-hundreds in the final two games. He and the captain, Mahela Jayawardene, provided the foundations for Sri Lanka's huge first-innings totals. While Sangakkara grafted in a workmanlike manner - at least for the first half of his 200 in Colombo - Jayawardene was in princely form throughout, attacking freely as he ran up two centuries.
Bangladesh's bowlers showed spirit, especially the fiery Shahadat Hossain, who threw all he had at Sri Lanka's batsmen; Jayawardene complained to the umpires about Shahadat's grunting at the point of delivery. Mashrafe bin Mortaza also toiled away manfully. But Sri Lanka's supremacy with the bat was unshaken, and even Shahadat, the tourists' leading wicket-taker, had forgettable figures of four for 254.
The one-day series that followed, played out in front of near-empty stadiums, was equally one-sided, with Sri Lanka coasting to another 3-0 win. Bangladesh's best moments came in the final encounter, when they reached 142 for six chasing a modest 197 before an all-too-familiar collapse.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Sri Lanka A v Bangladeshis at Colombo (Colts), Jun 20-22, 2007
Tour Match: Sri Lankan XI v Bangladeshis at Colombo (Police), Jul 18, 2007