Sri Lankans made to wait

Bangladesh finally achieved some consolation on the third day of the opening Test in Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club, batting throughout the day, of 79.3 overs, and losing just 5 wickets, two of which went down in the final 5 overs. A Sri Lankan victory by an innings and plenty tomorrow remains inevitable as ever, but a succession of fighting partnerships, of contrasting styles, at least ensured the tourists will take something from the game.

The normally quiet Chaminda Vaas had perhaps surprised a few with a comment the previous evening: “Bangladesh’s players should put their heads down. You can’t throw your wicket at this level. They should concentrate more at this level otherwise this kind of show will happen time and again.” In the opening few overs, Javed Omar and Shahriar Nafees Ahmed took his advice. Nafees, however, did not take too long to open his shoulders, and when Muttiah Muralitharan was brought on in the 9th over of the day, the first real contest of the day began. Despite two men in the deep on the leg-side, Nafees played his slog-sweeps, and when the bowler pitched fuller, brought out the drives.

Such strokeplay can rarely last forever against the great spinner, however, and after Nafees had played another slog-sweep to take him to 38, he miscued an attempted slash to a well-flighted delivery, and Murali took a sharp caught-and-bowled opportunity. Bangladesh lunched on 110 for 1, Javed having just completed his half-century, inclusive of 36 in boundaries.

In the second session Lasith Malinga, who had, as in the first-innings, bowled too many no-balls in his small share of overs, finally found some reverse-swing, bowling Yorker after Yorker, and finally slipped one through Javed’s defences, trapping him plumb in front and leaving him hobbling after the blow on the toe. Mahela Jayawardene immediately brought Vaas back on; the bowler brought his trademark leg-cutters into play, causing problems to both Rajin Saleh and Habibul Bashar. Several edges fell short, but finally Habibul went hard at a drive and Prasanna Jayawardene made no mistake.

Murali, who had looked relatively anodyne for much of the day on the slow pitch, finally found some loop and dip towards the end of the second session. Saleh and Mohammad Ashraful, however, kept him out in their contrasting ways: Ashraful unconvincingly sprung forwards to smother the spin; Saleh preferred to play back and watch the ball off the track. The batsmen reached tea at 188 for 3.

Murali continued to test the batsmen in the final session; Dilhara Fernando, too, maintained a tight line, bent his back and got the odd ball to rear. Both bowlers should have dismissed Saleh: on 37, Fernando, who had repeatedly extracted a flat-batted prod-and-miss from the batsman, finally found the edge only for Kumar Sangakkara, at first slip, to make a hash of the simple opportunity. Murali induced a similar stroke to an off-break, found the inside-edge but Malinga Warnapura’s miserable debut continued as he allowed it to slip from his grasp.

Fernando tested Ashraful, too, peppering him with short deliveries. The batsman allowed himself to be struck on gloves and shoulder but refused to play the pull-stroke which had been his first-innings downfall. Despite this, however, his familiar rushes of blood were evident elsewhere, especially late in the session against Murali. After reaching 22 off 94 balls, he charged down the track, lofted the ball over mid-on, immediately attempted two reverse-sweeps, the second of which should have seen him given lbw.

The luck of both batsmen finally ran-out just before bad light halted play 11 overs early, as Saleh edged Tillakaratne Dilshan’s part-time fingerspin to Mahela Jayawardene at first-slip; shortly after, Ashraful miscued a slog off Murali straight to Vaas at long-on who made no mistake. The Sri Lankans still lead by 255 runs and will hope to take the final 5 wickets without fuss or too much delay tomorrow.

Bangladesh 89 all out (32.3 overs)
Muttiah Muralitharan 5-15, Dilhara Fernando 3-33

Sri Lanka 577-6 declared (135.5 overs)
Michael Vandort 117, Mahela Jayawardene 127, Tillekaratne Dilshan 79, Prasanna Jayawardene 120*, Chaminda Vaas 100*

Bangladesh 233-5 (82.5 overs)
Javed Omar 62, Rajin Saleh 51, Shakib Al Hasan 4*, Khaled Mashud 0*

Bangladesh trail by 255 runs with 5 wickets remaining

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