The stage for Bangladesh's return to Test cricket after a gap of three months seemed almost tailor-made for the hosts yesterday. They had fielded their best possible team, their batsmen were amongst the runs in domestic matches and most importantly, Sri Lanka had elected to field on a wicket that seemed a belter.
Against the odds, the home side crumbled for 232. This was their lowest score at home in the last two and a half years and the frustration was quite noticeable. A puzzled look took over coach Shane Jurgensen, who was on the field for quite some time during the second innings, having a closer look at his players. Equally perplexed was Shakib Al Hasan, who did not have a clear answer on his team's batting failure.
“As long as I batted in the middle it seemed as though the wicket was really good for batting. I thought even if we batted normally and not to the best of our ability, we could have ended up scoring around 375 runs on this wicket,” said Shakib at the post-day press conference in Mirpur.
“We couldn't do that, and honestly speaking now we are really behind in this game. On this pitch, getting wickets will be very difficult and at the same time, scoring runs is easy,” he added.
The left-hander, who scored a streaky 55, admitted that the batsmen had made mistakes.
“No one will tell you that the wicket had too many demons in it. It was not the case that the ball was moving, or we were getting beaten, nothing of the sort happened. They bowled well, plus we made mistakes. It was a combination of both,” said Shakib.
“We should have done better… I fell to a bad shot as well, and in some other cases others did the same,” he added.
The one thing that was quite evident yesterday was Sri Lanka's strategy of using the short ball. Seamers Suranga Lakmal and Shaminda Eranga banged the ball in hard. Some of the key Bangladesh batsmen struggled against the strategy and ended up throwing away their wickets. Tamim Iqbal, after being given a life at short leg off a short delivery, decided to pull another only to be caught at deep fine leg. Mominul Haque's attempted pull merely looped to midwicket and Nasir Hossain failed to move away from a similar delivery from Eranga.
The Sri Lankan bowler had later stated that the plan to use the short ball at Mirpur provided better results than in the UAE against Pakistan.
“It was obviously a plan to use the short ball. The pitches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are similar to here. But the Pakistani batsmen were harder to dismiss. The Bangladeshi batsmen helped us,” said Eranga.
“The weather here is also similar to where we have come from, so it was easy to acclimatise,” he added.
Having given away the advantage on the very first day, Bangladesh will hope that their unusual strategy of including three pacers pays dividends and produces a fightback.
“Honestly speaking we are really behind in this game. But what's happened has happened, we need our bowlers to perform for us to come back,” Shakib said.