Chandimal keeps Sri Lanka afloat after early blows

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Chandimal scored an unbeaten 86 as the hosts reached 238 for 7 at stumps on Day 1.

Dinesh Chandimal made a fighting unbeaten 86 but it was the visiting bowlers who took the plaudits at the end of an absorbing first day’s play at the P Sara Oval, Colombo on Wednesday (March 15).

At stumps, the hosts reached 238 for 7, a recovery of sorts after having slumped to 70 for 4 at the end of the first session.

It was Bangladesh’s 100th Test match and Mushfiqur Rahim, their captain – who also had to keep wickets for this game – couldn’t have expected a better gift from his bowlers.

Having lost the toss and asked to bowl first, it didn’t turn out to be a bad day from the visitors’ perspective. Making four changes to the XI that lost in Galle, the visitors were off to a dream start, claiming the wickets of Dimuth Karunaratne (7) and Kusal Mendis (5) – within the first hour.

While the former was lured into playing at a wide ball – the edge flying to gully, the latter was left undone by some lovely drift generated by Mehedi Hasan. The No. 3 Sri Lankan batsman thus earned the ignominy of becoming the first Sri Lankan batsman to be stumped in Tests against Bangladesh.

Fresh from his second innings hundred in Galle, Upul Tharanga, struggled to assert himself in front of some hostile and accurate bowling from the visitors. He profited from a LBW review on 6 but his luck didn’t last long, edging a ball that spun across him and handing a simple catch to the fielder at first slip.

The southpaw made just 11 and the hosts were left struggling at 35 for 3. Things went from bad to worse at the stroke of lunch as Asela Gunaratne (13) played all over a straight ball from Subashis Roy and was trapped in front. The hosts reached lunch at 70 for 4 and in desperate need of a reliable partnership.

While wickets tumbled at one end, Chandimal, who himself was under pressure and in need of a big score, kept battling along. He opened up with a couple of crunching cover-drives but had luck on his side as well. Twice he could have been run-out had there been direct hits at his end and he was reprieved on 38 after correctly challenging umpire Sundaram Ravi’s call for a catch at first slip.

In Dhananjaya de Silva, Chandimal found the right ally and together they started the repair work. While he was stodgy and patient, de Silva was more than willing to chance his arm, especially against the two left-arm spinners, Shakib Al Hasan and Taijul Islam. Runs came at a brisk rate and for once Bangladesh seemed to be wilting under pressure.

De Silva, who had shown appetite for big runs, has been guilty of throwing away good starts. It was another such scenario today, one that he might as well regret at the end of the match. Looking trouble free, he had a sudden rush of blood. Looking to pull a short ball, he was befuddled as it skidded through and rattled the middle-stump.

The partnership came to an abrupt end at 66 and the hosts limped to 149 for 5 at tea. They had lost only one wicket in the entire session, but there was a sense that the late wicket had lifted Bangladesh’s spirits.
While Chandimal looked focused on the job at hand, his partners didn’t seem much interested at spending time in the middle.

Niroshan Dickwella (34) played some pleasing shots but got carried away and fatally missed an attempted reverse sweep. Dilruwan Perera (9), coming on the back of a fifty in Galle, played a lovely on-drive for six but then went chasing after a wide ball, only to edge it towards first slip. The hosts were suddenly reduced to 195 for 7 and it looked like they would be bowled out before stumps.

An edgy batsman, especially if there’s no one to support him, Chandimal’s nerves were perhaps calmed by the presence of skipper Rangana Herath at the other end. The left-arm spinner survived a LBW call very early on and then put his head down, accumulating runs in ones and twos.

Having found a partner willing to spend time in the middle, Chandimal did the same as the score kept ticking along.
As the day came towards an end, so did the will of the Bangladeshi bowlers. Rahim took the second new ball in the hope of getting past one of the two batsmen, but the duo held firm when play was curtailed early due to bad light. It wasn’t a disaster, both teams would be happy with the way things have progressed, but for a neutral observer, Bangladesh were one wicket away from winning the day.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 238/7 (Dinesh Chandimal 86*, Dhananjaya de Silva 34, Niroshan Dickwella 34; Mustafizur Rahman 2-32, Mehedi Hasan 2-58) vs Bangladesh.

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