Bangladesh Crash to Muralitharan

Having limited the Sri Lankans to a slight 19-run first innings advantage, Bangladesh imploded to the mesmerising spin of Muttiah Muralitharan to leave themselves facing a comprehensive defeat in Chittagong. Whereas Mohammad Ashraful’s sublime century had camouflaged the inadequacies of the other Bangladeshi batsmen on day one, they were exposed and skittled for just 181 in their second effort, leaving Sri Lanka requiring a paltry 163. With all ten wickets remaining and 25 already on the board, the tourists look set to complete their victory tomorrow and take a 1-0 lead in the two-match series.

Resuming at 313 for six, and with Thilan Samaraweera poised to marshal the tail, Sri Lanka would have been confident of a significant lead, at the beginning of the third day’s play. But Shahadat Hossain, muted yesterday by dismissive batting from Tharanga and Sangakkara, capitalised on some nonchalant shots as the Sri Lankan tail end folded with little resistance.

Early on Samaraweera appeared more intent on crease occupation than building a lead, allowing the often wayward Bangladeshis to settle into their rhythm unhindered. Perhaps a victim of his own pottering tactics, when a scoring opportunity finally presented itself in the form of a loose long-hop from Shahadat his snatched hook shot was toe-ended to mid-wicket, where Javed Omar clutched an acrobatic, diving catch.

While Malinga Bandara consigned himself to observant blocking and solid pushes, his lower-order companions periodically departed in similar fashion to Samaraweera. Dilhara Fernando, having been rattled by a venomous Shahadat bouncer, perished to another short-delivery as he pulled to mid-wicket, while Muralitharan’s wild slash brought himself a similar dismissal. A ball later Bangladesh wrapped up the tourist’s response after a shambolic mix-up led to Lasith Malinga being run out. Bandara finished unbeaten on 19.

Malinga almost atoned for his calamitous exit by producing an inspired opening spell with the ball, almost trapping Javed Omar leg-before with a succession of inswinging yorkers delivered by his low, slingy action. However Javed and fellow opener Nafees Iqbal survived the brief ten-over period before lunch, though not without further uncertain playing-and-missing.

The real damage for the home side was incurred in the fifteen overs following the interval, as Bangladesh subsided from 47 for no loss to 68 for three. Nafees Iqbal sloppily threw his wicket away for the second time in the game, caught behind for six after slashing mindlessly at Fernando. Javed, who before the loss of his partner had been scoring freely, then cocooned himself at the crease and the runs vanished. Inevitably this led to a further clatter of wickets as the Sri Lankan seamers asserted unopposed domination over the batsmen, and Fernando picked up his second wicket, Javed finally falling LBW. Habibul Bashar, so often in the past relied upon to anchor the innings, found himself constricted by Sri Lanka’s spinners, Muralitharan and Bandara, along with their token posse of fielders crouched around the bat. Afraid to push forward hard Habibul misread Bandara through the air and was rapped on the pads by his drifting top-spinner, leaving Bangladesh 63 for three. Mohammad Ashraful, possibly the best reader of Muralitharan in world cricket, was flummoxed for once by the wide-eyed Tamil, and was well caught by Upul Tharanga at short-leg for just a single.

But in the form of Shahriar Nafees and Khaled Mashud, Bangladesh reformed through obdurate, applied and determined batting. In contrast to the schoolboy slogs and swings of recent Bangladeshi humiliations from this position, the pair not only displayed stoic defence, but also exploited the rare loose delivery, and took their side to 122 before Muralitharan became the first bowler to capture 1000 international wickets, albeit this time through outdoing the umpire rather than the batsman. Mashud shouldered arms to a flighted off-break, only to see the ball deflect onto his forearm and scooped up by Tillakaratne Dilshan at silly-point.

With the loss of his partner, the less experienced Shahriar also lost his concentration, miscuing a pre-meditated hoick to mid-off, giving Muralitharan his third wicket. With Alok Kapali following soon after, beaten by Muralitharan’s prodigious spin and struck in line, it was left to Mohammad Rafique to flog a rapid 33, including two sixes, as his partners arrived and departed in quick succession, before he himself was last man out, comprehensively stumped by Sangakkara. Muralitharan finished with six for 54 – and match figures off nine for 141, while Bandara took two for 55.

Upul Tharanga, who finished unbeaten on 19, again opened the Sri Lankan innings with a flurry of shots, quickly nullifying any hopes of a Bangladeshi breakthrough, and together with Michael Vandort (6 not out) guided the tourists to 25 for none before bad light brought a premature close. Should Bangladesh produce an unlikely victory, they must make early breakthroughs and remove the kingpins of Sangakkara and Jayawardene. However with the bulk of their attack resting in Rafique and Enamul Haque, they are now further hampered by the lack of wear in the pitch – had the Bangladeshis delayed their downfall by grinding out the runs over a longer time span, then perhaps there would be a little more encouragement from the wicket. The dreams of victory have yet again been stamped out, by the greatest of dream crushers – Muttiah Muralitharan.

Bangladesh 319 all out
Mohammad Ashraful 136
Lasith Malinga 4/57, Muttiah Muralitharan 3/87

Sri Lanka 338 all out
Farveez Maharoof 72, Kumar Sangakkara 69, Thilan Samaraweera 58
Shahadat Hossain 4-83, Mohammad Rafique 2-76, Enamul Haque Jnr 2-76

Bangladesh 181 all out
Mohammad Rafique 40, Shahriar Nafees 38
Muttiah Muralitharan 6-54, Dilhara Fernando 2-10

Sri Lanka 25-0
Upul Tharanga 19*

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