Traditionally, the 22 yards of Sinhalese Sports Club, widely know as SSC, has always been a favourable wicket for the new ball, irrespective of its colour. Despite Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya is the leader wicket takers over here in Tests and One-Day Internationals (ODI) respectively, someone like Chamdina Vaas has also remained as one of the most successful bowlers over here (80 wickets in 21 Tests and 22 wickets in 15 ODIs). For the bowling side, the use of new ball becomes very important while playing at a particular venue and this very aspect was the difference between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in the series decider on Saturday.

Visitors failed to seize an early advantage

Coming into the final game with 1-0 lead in the series, it was good toss to win for Mashrafe Mortaza. The wicket was a bit dry, but keeping SSC’s previous track record and forecast of thunderstorm later in the day in mind, bowling fast was the most sensible approach. Even the opposition skipper Upul Tharanga wanted to bat first as well.

Bangladesh pocketed the early advantage and next what they needed was a disciplined effort with the new ball. In the previous two games, off-spinner Mehedi Hasan Miraz opened the bowling alongside Mortaza. But for this game, they had rightly chosen Mustafizur Rahaman to partner the skipper. Till this point of time, Bangladesh did everything right.

However, as soon as the first ball was bowled, the tide had started to turn towards the visitors.

Mortaza started the proceedings of the day with two back to back leg-side wides against left-handed Gunathilaka, followed by another an onside loosener later in the over which was converted into a boundary. Eight effortless runs were gifted away by Bangladesh from the very first over of this crucial game.

From the other end, their pace sensation Mustafizur was equally wayward, if not more. At times he was too full and Tharanga drove him to the fence quite comfortably and when he tried to correct himself and bowled short of good length, the Sri Lankan skipper got enough time to play his bread and butter cut shot on that slow turf.

The Mashrafe-Mustafizur combination three overs each in their first spell and after those six overs Sri Lanka were 45 for no loss.

Both the Sri Lankan openers came to the crease, prepared for a difficult phase of play. They expected bowlers to dominate in the initial 10-12 overs. But in reality, an undisciplined Bangladesh effort with the new ball settled the duo at the crease. The visitors just wasted the new ball and gifted away the toss advantage to Sri Lanka.

A disciplined effort by Kulasekara and Lakmal

 On the contrary, defending a competitive 281 Nuwan Kulasekara and Suranga Lakmal — two of Sri Lanka’s new ball bowlers — did exactly what Bangladesh should have done earlier in the day.

Both the Lankan pacers were at the mark from the very first ball and were immediately rewarded. They were bowling at the off-stump channel, continuously tempting the batters to drive. Tamim fell for that in the third ball of the innings. But luckily the edge went to boundary between the keeper and first slip.

However, his lucks ran out in the final ball of the first over when the southpaw offered a dolly to Kulasekara, who accepted it gleefully on his follow-through. Tamim was trying to dab the delivery to the onside, but only managed to produce a leading edge.

Again the experienced medium pacer struck with the final ball of his second over when he produced a false-shot from Sabbir Rahman. In the previous five balls, Kulasekara was mostly full. He was not allowing the batters to free their arms. All of a sudden the sixth ball was short and wide — a temptation which Sabbir could not resist. He tried to play an expansive cut shot, but only produced an edge through to the keeper.

In the next over Bangladesh suffered another big blow, the wicket of their most reliable Mushfiqur Rahim, who was done by a beautiful inswinger, which nipped back after pitching on a length, hit the back pad of the batsman and on-field umpire had no problem raising his finger. Even a review could not help Rahim.

After four overs, Bangladesh were tottering at 14 for 3 and that was game for Sri Lanka. The hosts never looked back from there, despite the efforts of Shakib al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar and Mehedi.

With the new ball Sri Lankan bowlers did nothing extraordinary. They were just concentrating on the length with the occasional change of angles and it made the big difference in the result of the match as well as the series.


Hopefully, Mashrafe’s boys have learned their lessons.

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