Mahmudullah’s 83 not out heaved Bangladesh to 513, before the two big hopes of Sri Lanka’s top order – Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis – wiped 187 runs off the deficit together, and remained unbeaten at the close of play.
Though the spinners had a little more purchase, this was, in short, another batting day in Chittagong. Rangana Herath did impose himself on the match for the first time and Mehidy Hasan took the only Sri Lanka wicket with the new ball, when the opposition were still scoreless. But only the occasional ball turned sharply, and the quicks had little assistance. By mounting such a monumental score, however, Bangladesh have given themselves a cushion – Sri Lanka must bat well again on Friday to come to a position of parity.
De Silva, rarely rattled, was calm and assertive from the outset, driving impeccably, and never shy to flit around the crease in the course of manufacturing of a dab or a lap sweep against the spinners. There is growing sentiment that he is one of Sri Lanka’s most versatile Test batsmen, and this innings was further evidence. No portion of the field was unfruitful for Dananjaya, and bowler could trouble him for long. If a few dot balls mounted, he would slink down the pitch to loft the spinner over the offside, or back away to punch him square of the pitch. Where many batsmen fear losing their wickets just before a break,
Dananjaya saw opportunity; thrice he ran at Taijul Islam in the over before tea, and thrice he hoisted him over the infield for boundaries. In between the big blows, singles and twos, eased comfortably through the field – no fuss, just confident Test batting. The only half-chance off de Silva’s bat came when he was on 65, and Mustafizur Rahman drew an edge with a ball that straightened. The chance flew low between first and second slip, neither fielder getting close to the ball. A few overs later, Taijul Islam hit him on the pad after he had skipped down the track, and Bangladesh burned one of their reviews, now quite desperate to dislodge him. As he had been struck more than three metres from the stumps, the ball tracking did not even come into play. Six overs later, after a minor deceleration during the nineties, Dananjaya struck a sublime backfoot punch off Taijul to complete a 122-ball century. It was his second triple-figure score in as many innings: the excellent match-saving hundred at Delhi being his most recent effort. Mendis’ innings, was not nearly as convincing. He had been beaten repeatedly by Sunzamul Islam in the early overs, and was often uncomfortable against each of Bangladesh’s three left-arm spinners, right until the final over of the day.
He could have been caught in the slips twice. He was dropped by a diving Mehidy on four, off the bowling of Mustafizur, and later, Mehidy had a similarly difficult chance go down of his own bowling. Batting on 57, Mendis edged a straighter delivery, that just evaded he keeper’s gloves, but was too fine for slip to lay a hand on it. There was an lbw review against him also, but as the ball was passing over the stumps, the original decision prevailed. In between the tetchy moments, were flashes of Mendis skill – the rocket-powered flat sweeps, and the rapid pull shots whenever the bowlers dropped short.
All six of Mendis’ intentional boundaries came on the legside, as did a majority of his singles. This being his comeback Test innings after being dropped for the tour of India, Mendis stuck largely to his stronger scoring areas. The two had come together after Dimuth Karunaratne fell in the third over, edging Mehidy to slip.
Earlier on day two, Mahmudullah had been the spine in a good lower-order batting effort from Bangladesh. Though they had lost two quick wickets inside the first seven overs – including that of overnight centurion Mominul Haque – Mahmudullah had combined with Sunzamul Islam to ensure Bangladesh remained on track for a score of over 500. The two put on 58 for the eighth wicket, before Sunzamul was stumped down the legside, having failed to read a Lakshan Sandakan googly.—AFP