Bangladesh’s feats on the penultimate day came straight out of the bedtime storybooks, where there is a lot of make-believe fantasy and helps one believe that the end is beautiful.
Saturday (March 18) spun out something similar for the tourists, who in a rare display, pushed over a far superior side to gain momentum in the fourth day’s play of the second Test at the P Sara Oval in Colombo.
With a lead of 139 runs and two wickets in hand, Sri Lanka wouldn’t be at as much ease with the fear of defeat still around, and not completely gone. Bangladesh though have the stage set to achieve the incredible in what is their 100th Test.
Mehedi Hasan picked up a wicket off the first ball he bowled in the day’s play to remove Upul Tharanga for the third time in this series and put the right stepping stone for his side to begin the day.
However, Dimuth Karunaratne quickly assumed the responsibility while stitching together the most effective partnership of the day with Kusal Mendis, adding 82 for the second wicket. Mendis, the man in form, looked scratchy and was handed a couple of reprieves, the most notable one being the inside edge that went quickly towards Imrul Kayes at short leg when he was on 12.
There was a run out chance later but Sabbir Rahman, who was expected to send the stumps down from point, missed it. Mushfiqur Rahim rotated his bowlers well but none matched the effectiveness of Mehedi and Mustafizur Rahman in the opening session.
However, the second session was a game-changer as Mendis fell in the second over with Mushfiqur and Co. succeeding with a review to overturn the original decision handed out by the on-field umpire. That wicket infused a lot of confidence in the young left-armer, who extracted the best out of the wide-of-the-crease angle, and nipped out a wicket immediately after to send Dinesh Chandimal back.
While Karunaratne remained largely unperturbed, Shakib Al Hasan nipped out wickets from the other end to build on the plight for the hosts. Asela Gunaratne’s nothing shot – literally, as he offered the pad – found him trapped in front of the stumps. Dhananjaya de Silva edged one behind the stumps in the next over and Niroshan Dickwella was hard done by an excellent, proactive catch pouched by Mushfiqur down the leg side.
The left-hander shaped up to play the paddle but to his dismay, the wicketkeeper was quick to move around in sync to take a sharp catch.
Having lost five wickets for just 47 runs, Karunaratne’s role became all the more crucial and he didn’t disappoint, getting to his fifth Test ton. While Dilruwan Perera was on a block-a-thon, Shakib opted for a review against him, only to find the ball spinning past the off stump.
The decision seemed correct with the 80th over only a few minutes away. But such was his luck that in the following over, Perera, who was trapped plumb in front, was given not out by umpire Aleem Dar and the visitors didn’t have a review to fall back on.
Shakib’s persistence paid off when he pushed one quicker through the air, hurrying the centurion into a poke and the edge went straight into the hands of the first slip fielder. Although the lead edged past the 100-run mark, Bangladesh hung in there with the advantage. Herath was removed soon after as Taijul Islam returned for a spell to strike in his first over.
Perera finally broke the shackles with a couple of boundaries towards the fag end of the day and helped stretch Sri Lanka’s lead, as Bangladesh’s task started to become steeper for the final day of the contest.
In a last moment drama, Bangladesh opted for a review against Suranga Lakmal, only to be given not out; all of that was preceded by an affirmative nod from Dar and a half-raised arm.
Brief Scores: Sri Lanka 338 and 268/8 (Dimuth Karunaratne 126, Kusal Mendis 36; Mustafizur Rahman 3-52, Shakib Al Hasan 3-61) lead Bangladesh 467 (Shakib Al Hasan 116, Mosaddek Hossain 75; Rangana Herath 4-82, Lakshan Sandakan 4-140) by 139 runs.