Mirpur Test day2: Sri Lanka in firm control
Published : Friday, 9 February, 2018 at 6:31 PM Count : 119
Debutant Akila Dananjaya ransacked Bangladesh's lower middle order in the morning, and Roshen Silva compiled a second high-quality fifty in the match, as Sri Lanka claimed a 312-run lead and took iron-grip of the Test. That the surface is a spinners' paradise is plain, but Bangladesh's meekness in the first innings has put them on the brink of a series loss. In the most dramatic period of play on day two, the hosts lost their last five wickets for five runs. Not even an inspired Mustafizur Rahman spell late in the day could undo the damage sustained before lunch.
Also driving Sri Lanka ahead on day two were Dhananjaya de Silva, Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal, none of whom got close to a half-century, but whose innings were vital nonetheless. Bangladesh's spinners were at times guilty of being too wayward. Though they delivered their share of dangerous deliveries through the day, many errors in length also speckled their spells. The visiting batsmen rarely allowed good scoring opportunities to go unused.
Mehidy Hasan Miraz - the best of the home side's spinners - took two for 29 from his 14 overs, and regularly raised wicket-taking opportunities. Taijul Islam also took two wickets, and Abdur Razzak finished with one. Their most potent weapon, however, was Mustafizur and his cutters. In a spell also envenomed by reverse swing, he took the wickets of Dilruwan Perera and Dananjaya off successive balls, and was unlucky to finish without at least one more scalp. Having earlier also trapped Danushka Gunathilaka in front of the stumps, he finished the day with 3 for 35.
But it was Dananjaya whose late-morning spell that was of most consequence to the match situation. To him also went the most perfect spin-bowling dismissal of the game so far. Tossing the ball up outside off stump, Dananjaya got the ball to drift away, before it dipped and spat back at the batsman. Mahmudullah offered a forward defence, but so sharp was the turn,that the ball whistled between bat and pad to hit the very top of middle stump. It was his maiden Test wicket. Dananjaya was suitably ecstatic.
His remaining dismissals were also off-spin classics. Three balls after bowling Mahmudullah, he lured Sabbir Rahman into an off drive, only for the ball to turn more sharply than the batsman expected. The catch, off the inside edge, would be snapped up low to the ground by Dinesh Chandimal at midwicket. Next over, a similar wicket: another turning delivery, another attempted drive, but this time Abdur Razzak's mis-hit shot went straight back to Dananjaya.
With three wickets having fallen in the space of seven Dananjaya deliveries, Sri Lanka were ascendant. As so often happens when their spinners dominate, the fielding also moved to a higher plane. Fielding at short leg, Kusal Mendis snapped up an inside edge off Taijul Islam's bat, and though the batsman spent no more than two seconds out of his crease, Mendis threw down the stumps in a flash, while Taijul's bat was still in the air. The final wicket in the collapse went to Dilruwan Perera.
If by establishing a 112-run lead, Sri Lanka had achieved a commanding position in the game, Roshen was most responsible for leading his side toward impregnability. Measured, and intelligent, he played within his limits, leaving balls that did not threaten his stumps, and yet hitting out at balls that deserved punishment. His footwark was swift and precise. Rarely did the Bangladesh bowlers dominate him for long stretches, though conditions were stacked heavily in their favour. There was no side of the pitch that he favoured, and his 58 not out - to go with the 56 in the first innings - is already more valuable than many hundreds.
While Roshen found a middle ground between attack and defence, the other batsmen were generally more partial to one or the other. De Silva, for example, blazed a trail, cracking Taijul for three boundaries in one over, while constantly going deep in his crease to make possible his late cut. Having sped to 28 off 24, his ambition would prove fatal in the end. Attempting to deflect a Taijul delivery with an open face, he missed it completely and had it clatter into his stumps.
Karunaratne went in the opposite direction. As Bangladesh's spinners largely turned the ball into him, he played for the straighter ball, and adjusted quickly if the delivery was spinning. His 32 came off 95 balls and featured no boundaries. Chandimal's 30 was compiled in a not dissimilar spirit, though he did score much faster.