Rajitha and Fernando win the first 50 minutes, ‘Litton’ and Mushfiqur rule the rest of the day
In the first 50 minutes in Mirpur, Sri Lanka’s two-seamers tore Bangladesh’s top order down, the scoreline reading 24 for 5 inside seven overs. But the recovery was just as epic. Mushfiqur Rahim – fresh from a hundred in Chattogram – progressed masterfully to a ninth Test century. Litton Das, more aggressive than his senior partner, strode to a hundred of his own. At stumps, the pair had put on 253 unbeaten runs together, and set Bangladesh on track for an imposing total.
Bangladesh, who seemed to have suffered a series-defining collapse at the start of the day, had dug incredibly deep to finish the day perhaps the happier outfit. There was only one further recognized batter to come for them, but it was clear that the pitch was now flat, and that Sri Lanka’s spinners posed little threat.
Despite their rollicking start, it was ultimately a day of toil for Sri Lanka’s attack. The scoring rate has increased through the day, Bangladesh was going at 3.25 an over by stumps.
There was not a lot in the surface beyond the early overs, during which Kasun Rajitha claimed three wickets and Asitha Fernando two, but Sri Lanka’s spinners were nevertheless modest, and at times bowled too many short deliveries.
For most of the day, Litton was more adventurous than Mushfiqur. Never was this more clear than when Sri Lanka’s seamers bowled bouncers at Litton just after lunch. He rarely shied away from using the pull shot, even with the leg trap set. Fernando should have had Litton caught for 47 when a top-edged pull floated out behind square on the leg side. But Kamindu Mendis – the substitute fielder – could not get his hands around the descending ball, having run back from backward square-leg. This was the only real chance either batter offered, though.
Even from early in the innings, Litton was severe on errors of length, particularly when Sri Lanka’s bowlers pitched short. He punished Ramesh Mendis through the leg side twice in his first over and continued to prosper in that region. Of his 16 boundaries, 13 came in the arc between fine leg and wide long-on. Thanks partly to Sri Lanka’s indiscretions, Litton raced through the 80s and 90s, to his second Test hundred; he collected three fours and five overthrows to move from 79 to 101 in the space of 13 balls. The runs continued to flow after he got to triple figures. Litton finished the day on 135 off 221.
Mushfiqur’s innings were steadier. He rode his form through the early stages, hitting two fours off his first eight balls, before settling into a rhythm as the morning and afternoon sessions wore on. He was largely content to wait for the bad balls, which Sri Lanka’s spinners – in particular – delivered with some frequency. Mostly, they bowled too full to Mushfiqur, and he would step out to hit them through the offside while picking up singles square on either side of the wicket in between.
Where Litton had been intended to take on the short-pitched bowling Sri Lanka’s seamers bowled through the middle session, Mushfiqur was largely content to duck or weave. He got to his 27th half-century with a cover-driven four off Praveen Jayawickrama, off the 112th ball he faced and continued to progress serenely after that, rarely missing out on the obvious scoring opportunities, but also slowing down when the opposition bowled well at him, as they did just before tea.
The runs came quickly for him as well in the third session, Sri Lanka’s bowlers clearly having been worn down by the pair, and by the heat. About halfway through the session, Mushfiqur poked one square of the wicket on the offside and completed his century – his third against Sri Lanka, who going by the stats are his favorite opposition. The second new ball, taken after 81.3 overs, did not trouble either batter much.
Despite their eventual toil, Sri Lanka’s quicks started brilliantly. Rajitha was the more impressive of the two bowlers and had set the morning’s collapse in motion with the second ball of the match.
Bowling from wide of the crease, he got the ball to straighten slightly off the pitch, and whizz between the bat and pad of Mahmudul Hasan Joy, whose off stump was flattened. Rajitha would also get two left-handers off successive balls with roughly this strategy, only from around the wicket. In the seventh over of the innings, he tempted Najmul Hossain Shanto into a big drive and took down his off stump as well. Next ball, he angled one into the pads of Shakib Al Hasan, who played around it and was given out lbw – a decision that was upheld upon review.
Fernando’s wickets, meanwhile, did not follow so close to a pattern. He skidded one at Tamim Iqbal in the second over, and the batter sent a leading edge to point, where Jayawickrama took a good diving catch. Tamim had been looking to whip that ball to the leg side.
Bangladesh’s struggling captain Mominul Haque was Fernando’s next victim. Poking at a length ball outside off, Mominul sent a thin edge to the wicketkeeper and was out for nine. This was his sixth consecutive single-figure score, and the seventh in eight innings.
In the end, Rajitha’s were the day’s only good figures – he finished with 3 for 43 from 19 overs. Fernando had 2 for 80 from 17 – his short-ball bursts having proved expensive, though he did create that chance off Litton. The spinners were a disappointment, but then the pitch had not yet begun to take any serious turn. Sri Lanka will hope that if Ramesh and Jayawickrama cannot be immediately penetrative on day two, they will at least be economical.