(ESPNCricinfo) Besieged batsmen, violent turn, wicked offcutters, fielders around the bat, and a hail of dismissals. It was as if this Mirpur pitch was on a mission to compensate for five days of boredom in Chittagong. No fewer than 14 wickets fell on a treacherous day-one surface, and by the end of it, Bangladesh were the side in the poorer position. They finished on 56 for 4, still 166 runs short of Sri Lanka’s 222. Nothing is certain on tracks such as this, but if Bangladesh are to give themselves a good chance of winning this match, a first-innings lead is almost imperative. They will have to bat last. And the fourth innings will not be pretty.
Playing his first Test in four years, it was Abdur Razzak who was most effective for Bangladesh, taking 4 for 63, while Taijul Islam took three wickets at the other end. For Sri Lanka, however, Suranga Lakmal made the early inroads, removing Tamim Iqbal to claim his 100th Test wicket, before later bowling Mushfiqur Rahim, who shouldered arms. Bangladesh’s poor position at stumps was partly down to their own doing: Mominul Haque ran himself out, when, unaware that the throw was coming to his end, he ambled towards the crease and failed to ground his bat.
That Sri Lanka managed to heave themselves to a competitive score was largely thanks to Kusal Mendis, who in the morning session, batted as if on a different plane from his teammates. Unlike at the start of his innings in Chittagong, he was clearly in good touch here, timing the ball nicely from the outset, and rarely appearing overawed by the amount of turn from the surface.
He advanced at almost a run-a-ball for his first 30 runs, sweeping ferociously and slapping spinners disdainfully over midwicket if ever they dropped short. The clatter of wickets at the other end slowed his progress, but in hitting 68 off 98 balls at the top of the innings, he gave the innings a platform. His eventual dismissal was to a sublimely-flighted Razzak delivery, which pitched on off and spun just enough to beat Mendis’ defensive prod, but not enough to miss the off stump. Earlier in the innings, Razzak had also accounted for Mendis’ opening partner Dimuth Karunaratne, who got himself into a tangle when he ran at the bowler, but could not quite get to the pitch of the delivery, and was stumped.
Roshen Silva, the other half-centurion in the Sri Lanka innings, batted with much less ambition than Mendis, perhaps because the team had slipped to 110 for 6 soon after lunch, and he had to make do with batting alongside the lower order. In both his significant partnerships – a 52-run association with Dilruwan Perera and a 43-run stand with Akila Dananjaya – Roshen was outscored by his partner. His innings featured only one truly risky stroke- the heave for six over long-on off Taijul. Having completed his half-century – his third successive in Tests – in the company of No. 11 Suranga Lakmal, Roshen was caught behind off another near-unplayable ball, this one delivered by Taijul.
Bangladesh left the field with a strut, but minutes after their innings had begun, it began to unravel. Tamim drilled the second ball of the innings, delivered by Lakmal, down the ground for four, but attempting a similar shot next ball, only managed to send a sharp return catch to the bowler. Mominul’s complacency would leave the hosts 4 for 2 in the next over. Expecting the throw from mid-off to come into the non-striker’s end, Mominul was caught short by Dhananjaya de Silva, whose excellent awareness saw him throwing the ball to the wicketkeeper. Mominul’s bat was suspended above the crease when the bails came off.
Mushfiqur and Imrul Kayes attempted a slow rebuild. Until towards the end of his spell, Lakmal noticed Mushfiqur was leaving balls that passed very close to his off stump. Lakmal continued to pitch it in a similar spot, until one moved back in off the seam and clattered into the top of off – Mushfiqur shouldering arms again. Bangladesh’s fourth wicket came in the dying moments of the day. Having just raised an lbw shout, Dilruwan Perera pinned Imrul in front of the stumps with an arm ball.
Liton Das, batting more adventurously than the other top-order batsmen, finished the day unbeaten on 24, having struck three boundaries. He had nightwatchman Mehidy Hasan for company.