Sri Lanka struck twice late on Day 2 to reduced Bangladesh to 133 for 2 at Stumps at the Galle International Cricket Stadium after Tamim Iqbal and Soumya Sarkar had stitched a fine century stand for the opening wicket in response to Sri Lanka’s 494.
On yet another day of cricket with the pitch offering little aid for the bowlers, the batsmen dominated the proceedings. If not for the Sri Lankan batsmen running out of patience, their total would have crossed the 500-run mark, especially after the tone was set in the first hour of play courtesy a 110-run stand for the fifth wicket between Kusal Mendis (194) and Niroshan Dickwella.
While Mendis continued with his approach of waiting for the loose deliveries, which had reaped rich rewards for him on the opening day, the wicketkeeper-batsman took little time to take the attack to the opposition. The southpaw struck a run-a-ball 75. However, his departure was preceded by that of Mendis, when the right-hander faltered in his attempts to get to a maiden double century with a six. However, Tamim Iqbal, positioned at long on, held the ball, lobbed it in the air, stepped beyond the fence and came inside to complete a clean catch.
Iqbal did what Mustafizur Rahamn couldn’t half an hour before. On that occasion, Mendis pulled Subashis Roy’s bouncer towards the fine leg region. Rahman held the catch but the momentum pushed him over the boundary ropes, thereby allowing Mendis to move from 175 to 181 and register his highest Test score. The lazy effort of Mustafizur was the costliest of all the shoddy efforts the tourists had put up on the field. There were the misfields and the untimely dives – efforts that slowly turned from shabby to downright embarrassing.
Iqbal’s catch not only stopped Mendis from reaching a well-deserved double ton, but also did well to lift the spirits of the other players on the field, given that they very few moments to rejoice. With the hosts playing only six specialist batsmen, the lower order wickets kept falling at regular intervals. However, with Dilruwan Perera scoring briskly from one end, Sri Lanka added 96 runs for the last five wickets, with the offspinning all-rounder stroking 51.
Mehedi finished with four wickets and a backward running catch to dismiss the last batsman to wrap up Sri Lanka’s innings. The jaded effort of the Bangladeshi bowlers eventually ended in the 130th over of the match.
Bangladesh ensured they didn’t let the pressure of a big total get to them as Iqbal and Sarkar played percentage cricket. The southpaw duo cut and drove with grace to help bring down the deficit quickly. They too had their chances. While Sarkar was dropped in the third over by Perera, the former was given a life on 28 by Dickwella when he edged a cut – this time Perera suffering the agony as a bowler.
Nonetheless, they went on to stroke their respective half centuries and also put on 118 runs for the opening stand, before Iqbal ran himself out. In a dismissal as bizarre as it gets, the opener was rapped on the pads and as the hosts went up in appeal, he took a brief stroll outside his crease, possibly for a non-existent single. Dickwella, realising the folly of the batsman, whipped of the bails.
One wicket led to another as Perera had Mominul Haque trapped LBW 10 minutes before Stumps. The two late wickets are bound to hurt Bangladesh badly. Not only have they given away the advantage, but also lost momentum going in to the third day, with a deficit of 361 runs still looming large over them.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 494 (Kusal Mendis 194, Asela Gunaratne 85; Mehedi Hasan 4-113) lead Bangladesh 133/2 (Soumya Sarkar 66*, Tamim Iqbal 57) by 361 runs