Spinners put Sri Lanka on verge of series sweep

Bangladesh 178 and 268 for 7 (Mominul 50, Mehidy 44*, Kamindu 2-22, Kumara 2-41) trail Sri Lanka 531 and 137 for 7 dec (Mathews 56, Madushka 34, Mahmud 4-65, Khaled 2-34) by 242 runs

Sri Lanka continued their march toward a 2-0 series victory on day four, taking seven Bangladesh wickets, as they encountered only pockets of resistance from the opposition. Mominul Haque crossed fifty as Bangladesh strove to bat out almost five-and-a-half sessions to save the match, or hit the record 511 runs they needed to win. Mehidy Hasan Miraz was unbeaten at stumps, but no one else crossed 40 and their biggest partnership was the 61 Litton Das and Shakib Al Hasan put on for the fifth wicket.

Spin became a significant weapon for Sri Lanka for the first time in the series, though the Chattogram surface was not taking massive turn yet. It was also not providing substantial seam movement, or pace, or carry, or reverse swing, which the seamers went looking for late in the day. The key for Sri Lanka, largely, was to stay patient and to continue posing various questions of the Bangladesh batters.

With so many runs to defend, Dhananjaya de Silva had no qualms keeping catchers in close, and trying unusual lines of attack. The Bangladesh batters could be relied on to eventually succumb. No one lasted more than 74 balls.

Prabath Jayasuriya bowled 20 overs and took 2 for 79. Lahiru Kumara also claimed two, and Vishwa Fernando got the wicket of Zakir Hasan, who’d hit a fifty in the first dig. The surprise for Sri Lanka was the two wickets taken by Kamindu Mendis, who gleaned more turn – if less artfully – than the more experienced spinners (de Silva also sent down seven overs). Kamindu can also bowl left-arm spin, but stuck to offbreaks on this occasion, claiming Shakib as his first Test victim, before also getting Shahadat Hossain out lbw to finish the day with 2 for 22.

Earlier in the day, Angelo Mathews had become the last of Sri Lanka’s batters to cross fifty in this match, with the others in the top seven having done so in the first innings. He was out to a spectacular delivery from Shakib, who did not celebrate with notable vigour despite the “timed out” history between the two. Sri Lanka just batted till their lead had breached 500, and gave Bangladesh the last 40 minutes before lunch to see out, which they did unscathed, though the wickets would start falling soon after.

Mahmudul Hasan Joy was the first to go, second over after the break, when he had his middle stump knocked over by a slider from Jayasuriya. Zakir didn’t last long either, offering an edge off Vishwa to first slip. They’d continue to flounder. Najmul Hossain Shanto, who has had a woeful series, had the top of his off stump rattled by an excellent Kumara delivery, angled in from wide of the crease. Mominul, who has been Bangladesh’s best batter across the Tests, got to an 18th career fifty off 55 deliveries, but top edged a sweep off Jayasuriya immediately after, and was caught at deep square leg.

The Shakib-Litton stand provided a break from the wickets. They gathered singles intelligently, and both began to strike confident boundaries, and saw out short-ball barrages from the quicks on a pitch that had lost its pace. But they’d fall before really making Sri Lanka sweat. Kamindu had Shakib edging to gully with an offbreak that turned more than the batter expected, and Litton toe-edged a Kumara bouncer to the wicketkeeper, as he tried to fetch it from wide outside off.

Bangladesh need 243 runs, but perhaps more realistically, need rain to arrive on day five, to save them from what at present seems an inevitable series conclusion. Their last pair who can bat – Mehidy Hasan, and Taijul Islam – were at the crease at stumps.