Sri Lanka rode a fast start and a fast finish to a competi-tive score, bowled with discipline, and found some spirit in the field to defeat Bangladesh by 70 runs and snap a six-match losing streak that stretched back to January.
Perhaps encouragingly for the hosts, the architects of the victory were many. Upul Tharanga and Da-nushka Gunathilaka cracked 76 runs in the Power-play, Kusal Mendis contributed a half-century, Thisara Perera produced a finishing salvo, and vir-tually all the frontline bowlers delivered good spells – though Nuwan Kulasekara was the best among them, claiming 4 for 37.
Bangladesh, meanwhile, will rue the batting col-lapse that cost them a series victory. Sri Lanka’s 280 was competitive, but achievable, on a surface that remained good enough to allow No. 8 Mehedi Hasan hit a maiden ODI fifty. However, the match had slipped from them long before Mehedi came to the crease. Three batsmen were out inside four overs, and though Soumya Sarkar and Shakib Al Hasan staged a 77-run recovery, the middle order collapsed after that partnership was broken. At 11 for 3 it seemed unlikely they could hunt down the target, but at 127 for 7, the match was effectively sealed.
The result saw the teams share the ODI series 1-1, just as they had shared the Tests. Two T20s are scheduled for next week.
Kulasekara, who was added to the squad only after the series had begun, relied more on tight lines and intelligent bowling than his characteristic inswing to make incisions. He should have had Tamim Iqbal off the fourth ball of the innings, when an edge flew at a catchable height between keeper and slip – nei-ther of whom attempted the catch. At times over the past few months, missed chances such as this have hurt Sri Lanka, but not today: Tamim sent Ku-lasekara a return catch two balls later.
Sabbir Rahman’s dismissal in Kulasekara’s next over perhaps had more to do with the batsman’s loose shot, than good bowling – Rahman nicking a very wide ball through to the keeper. Kulasekara came back later to mop up the innings – dismissing Me-hedi and Taskin Ahmed. These were his best ODI figures since November 2013.
Bangladesh’s middle-overs capitulation – in which they lost four wickets for 39 runs – was largely the work of Sri Lanka’s spinners. Dilruwan Perera re-covered from a 20-run first over to have Soumya stumped, then had Shakib caught at short cover a few overs later. Seekkuge Prasanna also bowled Mosaddek Hossain and Suranga Lakmal had Mah-mudullah caught behind during this period.
Through the course of the second innings, Sri Lanka also fielded better than they have all year, with plenty of sharp work in the infield, and visible pep among the boundary riders as well. The first-over missed chance off Tamim was their only real mis-take.
Bangladesh too, had squeezed Sri Lanka during the middle overs, but were not capable of preventing the final surge that propelled Sri Lanka to a good score. They had had the hosts at 230 for 7 in the 45th over, before Thisara and Dilruwan Perera bludgeoned 45 off 27 deliveries. Thisara built his innings with a little more intelligence than has recently been seen in his batting, laying low for a few balls before ven-turing his more ambitious shots. He hit four fours and a six in his 40-ball 52, but was constantly look-ing for the singles and twos as well.
Earlier, it had been Tharanga that set the innings off apace. His runs came through delectable cut shots, and effortless drives. In the fifth over he played a pull shot off Mashrafe Mortaza that seemed languid to the point of being casual, yet the ball carried all the way over the midwicket boundary. After the Powerplay, Bangladesh would impose themselves on the Sri Lanka, first through good bowling by the likes of Mehedi and Taskin, but also through sharp fielding, with which they effected two run outs.—AFP