World Cup Super League points continued to evade Sri Lanka. The loss against Bangladesh was their fourth in a row since the Super League began.
The innings for both sides followed a similar trajectory at their respective halfway marks. Bangladesh were four down for 99 while Sri Lanka too lost their fourth wicket on 94. Both sides had batted under 23 overs till then. But, Bangladesh had a weapon that Sri Lanka did not. It was the composure and game awareness of senior players.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah stitched a century stand to pull their side out of a hole. In contrast, the visitors were soon six down for 102. Wanindu Hasaranga – batting at eight to create a false perception of batting depth – played another knock with shot after shot demanding a promotion. But once he departed, the game crawled on for a while before ending in a result that seemed certain halfway through the second innings.
Sri Lanka started well
Sri Lanka were right on the money early on. The new cherry nipped around for Dushmantha Chameera and he edged out Liton Das for a duck. With ideal match-ups in mind, Sri Lanka had two off-spinners – Dhananjaya de Silva and Danushka Gunathilaka bowling at Tamim Iqbal and Shakib Al Hasan. While he was there, Shakib batted with purpose but got ahead of himself to sky a delivery bowled deliberately slower by Gunathilaka to the fielder at long on. With right-handers to follow, he did not bowl another over.
The visitors soon brought in pace and the leg spin of Hasaranga from either ends. Mushfiqur Rahim got busy with his sweeps and nudges while Tamim reached a cautious fifty. Lakshan Sandakan’s introduction post drinks released some pressure with no-balls, long hops and deliveries in the slot.
The re-introduction of Dhananjaya did the trick as he yorked Tamim who foxed himself while attempting to throw off Dhananjaya by moving in his crease while the bowler was in his run-up. Mohammad Mithun missed a paddle sweep on the next ball and Bangladesh lost both reviews on successive deliveries.
The rescue act
For the first seven overs, Rahim and Mahmudullah added only 25 runs. The latter continued to be sedate while the former milked the field at will. “I am not a big guy. I am not a Russell or Pollard”, exclaimed Rahim when asked about his 84-run knock that came at a strike rate of 96.55 but had only five boundaries.
Sticking to his role of holding one end up, Rahim batted without risk. His boundary strokes included the characteristics slog sweeps while he used his feet to hit Dhananjaya down the ground to reach his fifty.
Throughout his knock, Rahim demonstrated a mastery of various versions of the traditional sweep. He perished on the first attempt at a reverse, failing to cross the fielder at the short-third man in the 44th over.
Albeit striking at a low 71.05, Mahmudullah stuck around for the repair work. But, before he could accelerate, Dhananjaya cleaned him up in the 47th over. Continuing to use match-ups, Sri Lanka deployed the offspinner at the death as well against Bangladesh’s left-handed lower-order.
With Rahim and Mahmudullah tiring, Bangladesh scored 27 runs in overs 41-46. Afif Hossain deployed a flick and a reverse ramp while Mohammad Saifuddin used his muscular arms to collect four boundaries in the last two overs. They collected 37 in the last four overs of the innings.
Sri Lanka innings never got going
The only bright spot in the first half of Sri Lanka’s reply was a brisk cameo by the opener Danushka Gunathilaka. He took a liking to Taskin Ahmed collecting five boundaries through effortless hitting in the pacer’s first two overs.
Soon Mehidy got into the act, exploiting the lack of application and footwork from the Sri Lankan batsmen. Gunathilaka failed to reach to the pitch of the ball and offered a return catch in the fifth over of the innings.
Sri Lanka’s captain, Kusal Perera and vice-captain, Kusal Mendis, tried to stitch a partnership but the latter fell prey to Shakib. Mendis looked to play a forcing drive to a loopy flighted ball, but was deceived as the ball held up in the pitch and got a thick outside edge to the fielder at backward point.
Mehidy’s second spell almost brought curtains to the game. Perera missed the attempted cut to a ball that was neither short nor wide enough for the stroke. The ball went on to hit his offstump, uprooting it from the ground.
Mehidy cleaned up Dhanjaya and Ashen Bandara soon to reduce Sri Lanka to 102/6 in the 28th over. He finished with a spell of 4/30.
Hasaranga’s lone hand
In no mood to hang around, Hasaranga went into his attacking elements right from the get-go. He clubbed Mehidy for consecutive fours just after facing one ball in his penultimate over. He came down the track in his next over to hit a six down the ground. He then slog-swept Shakib in the next over to hit another six and a four.
Hasaranga then reached a fifty in 31-ball through two strokes way above the pay grade of a number eight batsmen. First was a six down the ground, meeting a length ball from Saif with a straight bat. In the next over, he reached the milestone with a powerful pull in front of square which deposited the ball way back past the deep midwicket fence.
Hasaranga added further pressure on Bangladesh, smashing the first ball of Taskin's over - the 40th - for a six down the ground. It ended up being a 10-run over as Bangladesh needed 67 in the last 10 but with three wickets in the kitty.
Things ended in a heartbreak for Hasaranga as he walked back dejected after mistiming a pull off Saifuddin to the fielder at deep-square in the 44th over. He was running out of fuel and a tired shot ended a knock that brought standing ovation from the dressing room and an acknowledgement from opposition players on the field.
Nursing an injured calf, Mustafizur bowled his cutters with a short run-up but ended the game with a three-wicket spell. Sri Lanka need a way out of the rut if they do not want to fall short of the automatic qualification zone in the Super League. A promotion for Hasaranga can offer a start.