Afternoon delight for Bangladesh

The fourth day of Bangladesh's 100th Test was the making of something extraordinary against Sri Lanka at the P Sara in Colombo yesterday, when the home side were only 139 runs ahead with two wickets standing. Can the Tigers turn it into a momentous occasion on the fifth and final day today? Photo: AFP

Shakib Al Hasan had said after the third day that the first session on the fourth day would be the most important of the whole Test, and perhaps he said that with knowledge that if they could not prise out a few Sri Lankan wickets in the morning session when the batsmen would have to start anew, the bowlers may pay the price in the following session, which over the first three days had been the most fruitful time for batting.

Over the first three days, the afternoon sessions have produced just three wickets while 286 runs were scored in 81.3 overs. So when Bangladesh managed to take just one wicket in the morning yesterday as Sri Lanka put on 83 runs, it would have been a difficult lunch to swallow.

"When we came to the break the most important thing was a breakthrough," said debutant Mosaddek Hossain after the day's play yesterday. "That was what we were thinking about -- if a settled team loses one wicket they can lose two or three wickets. So that was the plan, and once we got a wicket you saw what happened."

What happened was Shakib's left-arm spin and Mustafizur Rahman's left-arm swing cutting a swathe through the Sri Lankan middle order, with the home side stuttering for their tea having lost five crucial wickets and added just 63 runs.

Something seems to have awoken in Shakib since his near suicidal batting on the second evening. He scored a match-altering century on the third day and yesterday employed all his tricks -- the drift, the indiscernible changes of pace, the arm-ball and even the big-spinning off break.

However it all started with Mustafizur and perhaps a bit of fortune as well, but Bangladesh will feel they were owed that after some of the reversals that they endured. Mustafizur, bowling from around the wicket, got one to shape in and seam away and Mendis seemed to edge it. Upon their appeal being negated, the third umpire decided after long inspection that there was a sound and a slight deviation, and although there was no Snicko or Ultra Edge, overturned the on-field decision.

In the fourth over of his spell, a wide ball from over the wicket had Chandimal chasing without much feet movement and a thick edge was taken well by Mushfiqur diving to his right. Three overs later, Shakib's drift tricked Gunaratne into padding up to a straight delivery and getting trapped leg-before.

Mushfiqur then did some astute thinking by giving Mustafizur a sixth over. The rookie paceman had only bowled a six-over spell once on tour -- when he was fresh on the first morning on this Test. Mushfiqur's gamble paid off as, off the sixth ball of the 55th over, Dhananjaya de Silva pushed forward and the slight swing Mustafizur got did enough to take the edge through to a delighted captain.

The captain and Shakib then produced a moment of inspiration to get the fifth wicket of the session. Having noticed Niroshan Dickwella's penchant for the sweep, Mushfiqur was at the ready to react, and when he saw Dickwella go down on one knee, he moved to his right and grabbed a stunner, bringing up Mushfiqur's 100th dismissal.

"There is the matter of them coming back tomorrow and starting anew. So that is a big advantage for us in the endeavour to get them all out as soon as possible," said Mosaddek about their chances tomorrow.

If they replicate the discipline they showed throughout the day and especially in the afternoon yesterday, they probably will not have to wait long. 


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