When the miscued shot off Mehedi Hasan Miraz's bat landed in the mid-off fielder's hands, Bangladesh lost their 10th wicket in just three hours and five minutes of batting on the fifth day of the first Test to be all out for 197. It was fitting that home captain Rangana Herath was the bowler to bring about the hurried end to Bangladesh's struggle with his sixth wicket of the innings, in the process moving four wickets clear of New Zealand's Daniel Vettori as the most successful left-arm spinner of all time.
The Tigers' whimpering end was in stark contrast to expectations when they came to the Galle International Stadium, which in March 2013 was the site of their highest Test score and one of the few fully fleshed out draws that the country can boast of. It was thought that the team had progressed even further in the intervening years and would present a tough challenge to a Sri Lankan team in a rebuilding phase. Four and a half days of Test cricket later, they had lost the match by 259 runs -- their third-highest defeat to Sri Lanka in terms of runs, excluding innings defeats.
For all the talk of progress, yesterday's defeat marked the fourth successive Test in which Bangladesh entered the fifth day with a realistic chance of a draw, before implosions of varying degrees handed the match to the opposition. Yesterday's was an implosion of the most spectacular kind.
The task could not have been more innocuous when part-time bowler, owing to play being called off on the previous day due to bad light during his over, lumbered up to bowl his slow-medium off-cutters in the first over of the day to opener Soumya Sarkar, batting on a 47-ball 53. Bangladesh had resumed the day on 67 without loss in 15 overs, needing to bat out a maximum of 98 overs to force a draw after Sri Lanka declared their second innings on 274 for six the previous day, setting an unlikely target of 457.
Soumya's first shot -- an ill-advised sweep, the top-edge off which would have looped into short leg's hands had he not taken evasive action -- turned out to be a portent of things to come. He was bowled off the next ball, and amusingly tried to request a review thinking that the Sri Lankans were celebrating a caught-behind. Mominul Haque then came and went in a fashion identical to his first-innings dismissal for a 15-ball five in the 19th over. He played back to a Dilruwan Perera off-spinner and was trapped in front.
In Perera's next over, Tamim Iqbal pushed out at an off-stump ball and was caught at slip for a 55-ball 19. Mushfiqur Rahim and Shakib Al Hasan then put on 21 runs to take the score to 104 for three when Shakib lunged at a Herath delivery that landed on middle and off, and the resultant edge was caught brilliantly by Dimuth Karunaratne at leg slip. Mahmudullah Riyad lasted just one ball before being trapped in front by an arm-ball that he just did not get in line to play.
Bangladesh had lost half their side for 37 runs in the first hour.
Much like he did in the first innings, skipper Mushfiqur Rahim batted solidly and, in the company of wicketkeeper Liton Das, took the team to lunch without further damage with the score on 157 in 47 overs. All hope of a stirring rearguard, however, was flushed down the drain when Mushfiqur chased the second ball after the break sent down by chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan and tickled the ball through to the keeper to fall for a resolute, if ill-ended, 98-ball 34.
Three overs later, after a change of ends, Herath soon had his record-setting wicket when Liton Das threw caution to the wind and tried to loft the master spinner over the in-field, only to be caught at cover for a 62-ball 35 to leave the team at 166 for seven. Three more easy wickets for Herath followed when he had Taskin Ahmed caught off the bat and pad at short leg and Mustafizur Rahman bowled, before Miraz ended the match in the appropriate manner, with an unnecessary shot to be out for 28.
The second Test, Bangladesh's 100th, will start at the P Sara Oval in Colombo on March 15.