Published: January 5, 2010
The last two ODIs between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka provided a lot of drama, individual heroics and nail-biting finishes, both teams having won one each, but fair to say both were very even contests. A year on, much has changed in Bangladesh cricket, and in Sri Lanka’s too. Captain’s armband has shifted in both sides; while Bangladesh have enjoyed a very successful year, albeit against weaker opponents, Sri Lanka’s fortunes have gone up and down, losing their last series against India badly.
But those memories were brushed aside by Sri Lanka with an air of almost arrogance. The opening match of the Idea Cup, which was billed up as a fierce encounter, lived up to be a no-contest in the end as the Lankans defeated the hosts by 7 wickets with 5.1 overs to spare under the lights of Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
World’s number one one-day batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan smashed his first hundred (104) against Bangladesh while skipper Kumar Sangakkara scored 74 to steer their side to the target of 261 in 44.5 overs.
In modern cricket, which is so much dominated by power and not by technique, where a switch hit is more applauded than a straight drive, where Twenty20 is more fashionable than Test cricket, 260 runs in a one-dayer can at best be termed an average score. And on a pitch that was described at the toss as a very good batting track with prospects of dew later in the evening, that 260 runs is bound to look as an ordinary effort. However in the context of the game, it ended as a good one, especially after the way the top four faltered in a space of just nine runs.
Bangladesh had a very good start on a surface conducive to big score and against a depleted Sri Lankan bowling attack that had no Muralidaran, Malinga or Mendis in the line up. Openers Tamim Iqbal and Imrul Kayes were picking boundaries and singles at relative ease and it looked like a 300-run innings until the 12th over after which things changed dramatically. The next five overs exposed an old picture of Bangladesh batting as four of the top fell prey to their own demons, playing uncontrolled shots on short-pitched stuff. There were no demons in the pitch for sure.
Imrul started the rot mistiming a pull of Nuwan Kulasekara and holing out at fine leg, Tamim followed as he tried one hoick too many against Dilshan. Rokibul Hasan was squared up by a short-pitch delivery from Suranga Lakmal, brilliantly taken at slips by Thilan Samaraweera while skipper Shakib Al Hasan flashed hard at a wider one from Lakmal which was equally brilliantly grabbed by Chanaka Welegedara at third man. 65 for no loss became 74 for 4 in space of four overs.
Consolidation came in the form of Mushfiqur Rahim and Mohammad Ashraful. Mushfiqur took the attacking role while Ashraful decided to sit back for a while, but they together amassed few valuable runs before the wicketkeeper-batsman was dismissed by a full-toss from Suraj Randiv. At 132 for five after 32 overs Bangladesh looked in dire need of a big and rollicking partnership.
Ashraful’s knock of 75 was as contrasting as his batting style has flung over the years. He started pretty slow, in fact very slow for a one-day game. He scored his first 30 runs at a rate slightly above 50. But more importantly he kept the runs ticking and was prepared to shift gear when the occasion demanded. Towards the end of the innings, he started to play aggressive and exquisite shots that reminded all of his past flamboyance. He found good support in Mahmudullah Riyad who craftily mixed aggression with caution. Mahmudullah’s brave knock came to an end in the 48th over after he had added a valuable 45 runs including the first six of the innings.
Ashraful was by then having his time at the crease, playing all the shots in his repertoire. He was looking good to carry it till the end, but an unfortunate run-out ended his excellent effort. He scored his runs with the help of only four boundaries. Bangladesh did their best to put on a challenging total, the batting powerplay, taken between 45th and 49th overs, yielded 43 runs. And Naeem Islam, dubbed ‘Chhokka Naeem’ in local cricket, gave it a grandtsand finish smacking two sixes in the last over to take the score to 260 for 7 after fifty overs. Naeem ended not out on 22 off just nine deliveries and gave Bangladesh a lift in their spirit.