Tillakaratne Dilshan all but scuttled Bangladesh's hopes of staying competitive in the Asia Cup and helped earn Sri Lanka a bonus point in the process. He blazed to a half-century, providing thrust for the first-ever total in excess of 300 in Dambulla, and then exercised control over Bangladesh's escalating run-rate, while ripping out three wickets to end the visitors' chances of an improbable victory.
Bangladesh's chase stayed true to their well-rehearsed script. They harboured hope while Tamim Iqbal attacked the Sri Lankan fast bowlers and played the spinners confidently, but once he was dismissed the rest followed without a fight. Mohammad Ashraful, who scratched his way to 9 off 29, played another momentum-deflating innings. The game, however, had been lost even before Bangladesh began to chase, for their bowlers had conceded too many on a pitch that would be harder to bat on under less-than-ideal floodlights.
If the rules of boxing were applied to cricket, umpires Billy Bowden and Bruce Oxenford would have been justified in awarding Sri Lanka a technical knockout, for Bangladesh's bowlers were unable to defend themselves against Dilshan and Upul Tharanga. Sri Lanka's openers scored at will, finding the boundary at least once in each of the first 12 overs.
Shakib had said at the toss that he hoped to restrict Sri Lanka to less than 240 but Tharanga's fluent cover drive for three, off the first ball, indicated that would be tough to achieve. The second ball disappeared to the extra-cover boundary, off Dilshan's flashing bat, and another went past point, making it 12 off Mashrafe Mortaza's first over.
While Dilshan didn't need room to cut and drive Mortaza, he was offered a short ball by Syed Rasel first up and pulled it to the long leg boundary. Most of his runs came on the off, but when afforded opportunities on the leg, Dilshan took advantage - pulling a long hop from Mortaza for a six that crashed into an advertising board and brought a reward of $1500 as well.
With Mortaza and Rasel proving expensive, Shakib brought Shafiul Islam and himself on but both their first overs cost 10 each. Dilshan dominated both scoring and strike and reached his half-century off his 31st delivery. Tharanga was on 13 off 15 at the time. Tharanga, however, imposed himself now and then, chipping Shafiul over midwicket and skipping down to loft Shakib for a straight six. The opening stand was worth 111 and it lifted their average partnership to 64.53, the best for any pair who have opened in more than ten innings.
The contest began to find an equilibrium only after Sri Lanka reached 100 in the 12th over, as Shakib delayed the bowling Powerplay to avail the protection of five boundary riders. During this quieter passage, Dilshan's attempt to work the ball to leg hit the leading edge and gave Shakib the softest of return catches. Sri Lanka, however, accumulated steadily through Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene, and the innings was poised for a strong finish.
Sri Lanka were 242 for 4 after 40 overs and Angelo Mathews and Chamara Kapugedera took over. They barely tried anything spectacular but both scored at over a run a ball during their half-century partnership, leaving Bangladesh to contemplate how they would approach a record target.
Tamim began with a hat-trick of fours off Nuwan Kulasekara: the first driven past the bowler, the second over cover, and the third sliced square on the off side. He lost his partner Imrul Kayes in Kulasekara's next over to an edge that was caught low at second slip by Jayawardene. Kayes' dismissal heralded Bangladesh's best period of the match, during which Tamim and Junaid Siddique attacked Kulasekara and Lasith Malinga successfully.
Bangladesh had raced to 59 for 1 after eight overs and Sangakkara, seeing that pace was having no effect, turned to spin. Dilshan and Muttiah Muralitharan exercised immediate control on the run-rate, and the next five overs produced only 17. Junaid tried to break free against Murali but his attempted slog-sweep was held spectacularly by Kulasekara, who ran forward and to his right from deep square leg and dived to catch the ball moments before it hit the ground.
Tamim had more success against Murali; he charged the doosra and hit it into the stands at wide long on. He also played a precisely-placed cover drive against Dilshan to bring up his half-century off 52 balls. The next delivery, however, was his last. Dilshan dragged Tamim forward with his flight, leaving Sangakkara with a routine stumping to complete.
Bangladesh's slim hopes soon vanished when Dilshan trapped Ashraful in front and had Mushfiqur stumped. At 126 for 5, all that remained to be seen was whether Bangladesh could prevent Sri Lanka from gaining a bonus point. They couldn't.