After three days of performing the role of a weather reporter at Dhaka, scribes finally had a chance to do what they had come here for. A window of opportunity in the form of a spell of good weather made play possible at the Bangabandhu Stadium. If the sun gods took mercy and shone hard all afternoon, Aravinda de Silva took over under the lights and dazzled. An unbeaten 96 from the veteran in his first knock as opener saw Sri Lanka breeze to a nine-wicket victory in the opening match of the seventh Asia Cup.
When Sri Lankan captain Sanath Jayasuriya won the toss and put the hosts in to bat, Chaminda Vaas responded well, accounting for two wickets in quick time. Even as Javed Omar waged a lone battle at one end, Bangladesh slowly but steadily lost wickets at the other end. Former skipper Akram Khan gave Omar good company while he was at the crease with some solid blows. The two came together with Bangladesh on 27/3 and pushed the score past the hundred mark. Just when Akram Khan looked like he was attempting to push the scoring rate, he feel to a good running catch in the outfield by Upul Chandana off the bowling of Aravinda de Silva. Earlier in the over he struck two boundaries off the spinner but could not keep the momentum going.
After the fall of the burly Akram Khan, Omar found no one to partner him in any meaningful manner. Although he helped himself to an unbeaten 85, Bangladesh could muster only 175 in their allotted 50 overs.
Debutant Kaushalya Weeraratne, who impressed with his mediumpacers in the recently concluded Youth World Cup in Sri Lanka, was a picture of delight when he picked up his first wicket in One Day Internationals with just the fifth ball he bowled. He ended with the most respectable figures of 7-1-18-1
If watching Bangladesh take the field against the former World Cup champions was reward enough for the crowd at the Bangabandhu Stadium, Aravinda De Silva's silken touch at the top of the innings was an unexpected bonus. When asked before the tournament, the Sri Lankan management did not either confirm or deny the rumours that De Silva would open the innings. Partnering the explosive Jayasuriya who is not in the best of nick, De Silva unveiled his complete array of strokes. Starting with a trademark pull shot, he laced the ball through the covers at will. Finding the gaps with consummate ease, De Silva thoroughly justified Dav Whatmore's experiment of using him at the top of the innings.
Even the loss of Jayasuriya to a rush of blood did not slow down De Silva. Marvan Attapattu joined De Silva in the middle and the two made the best of a flat batting track. Before the 31st over could be completed, De Silva was close to a century, Attapattu on 41 and Sri Lanka past the target.
Naimur Rehman, who was run out without facing a ball earlier in the day, grassed a catch that De Silva offered when he was just 13. When De Silva walked up to receive the man of the match award, all Rehman could do was stand back, applaud and rue his luck.
If De Silva's innings today was a hint of things to come, it will take more than luck to stop the Lankans in this series.