The dead deck at Chittagong might help to boost Sri Lanka’s confidence.
The year 2017 would go as one of the most forgettable years in the recent times for Sri Lankan cricket. In the entire year, their Pakistan whitewash of 2-0 in the UAE was the only accomplishment that came their way in cricket. While they won a Test series out of the six series they had played, their record was worse in the white-ball game. Having played 29 ODIs last year, Sri Lanka managed to win only five out of those. They touched rock bottom when they lost the ODI series to the lower-ranked Zimbabwe and following which their long-time skipper Angelo Matthews stepped down from the role, across formats.
As the world welcomed the new year, Sri Lankan cricket would have wished for a better year than the previous one. Just 17 days into 2018, Sri Lanka played its first match of the year. Unfortunately, the result was no different from the majority of their results in 2018. Co-incidentally, opening old wounds, it were the Zimbabweans again who defeated Sri Lanka in the second ODI of the Tri-Series that also involved Bangladesh. That followed by a loss to Bangladesh as well to make things only worse for Sri Lanka.
However, the Sri Lankans made their way back into the Tri-Series by winning the next two ODIs and ensured a place for themselves in the final. The match was between Coach Chandika Hathurusingha’s former team (Bangladesh) and new team (Sri Lanka). The Tri-Series was Hathurusingha’s maiden assignment as Sri Lanka’s head coach. Although he started off with two consecutive losses, he helped the boys understand their individual roles better and that worked magically as Sri Lanka clinched the Tri-Series title and kick-started 2018 on an extremely positive note.
To remind again, it was the same team that failed to win a single ODI series last year and now, it will be remembered as the side that fought back from behind to take away the Tri-Series.
The rivalry between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh did not end with the Tri-Series final. It was carried into the two-Test series that was to follow. Going into the first Test at Chittagong, Bangladesh were the side that had an upward graph in the Test format of late, while Sri Lankans, once considered among the competitive sides, was on a deteriorating phase.
The dead deck helped Sri Lanka to boost their morale a lot
Hathurusingha, who was Bangladesh’s coach until a couple of months ago, was well aware of the conditions there and that negated Bangladesh’s advantage that came from the fact that Sri Lanka had not played a Test there in the last four years. Prior to the first Test, he said, “We know what is going to happen. Bangladesh have been playing good cricket here lately. It is going to be a challenge for batters for both teams.”
As Hathurusingha had added that whichever side will take an early advantage will go ahead. Bangladesh being the hosts and how confident side they are at home, there were no surprises that they ended up piling 513 runs in the first innings. Hathurusingha had a few arguments with the curator before the start of the Test and then with the match referee because he suspected that the hosts might do something to change the nature of the pitch. Considering they had included six spinners in the squad, Hathurusingha raised concerns.
However, the pitch remained to be a flat deck throughout the match where batting in the second innings the touring party scored a mammoth 713 runs. After Dimuth Karunaratne was dismissed for a duck, the next five batsmen delivered with the bat. Kusal Mendis missed out on an excellent double ton as he was dismissed on 196, the likes of Dhananjaya de Silva and Roshen Silva also registered their respective centuries. Sri Lanka’s middle-order savouirs, Dinesh Chandimal and Niroshen Dickwella strengthen the total with their half-centuries.
After Sri Lanka earned a 200-run lead, a collective effort from the Sri Lankan attack reduced Bangladesh to 81 for 3. However, Mominul Haque became the first Bangladesh batsman to score twin centuries in a Test, saved the match for the hosts as the first Test ended in a draw.
Every situation has two faces, a positive and negative side. The positive side for Lanka in the first Test came in the form of the flat track: the same flat track denied Sri Lanka a win on the final day, it helped the out of form side regenerate the lost confidence with the abundance of runs they scored in Chittagong. Mendis, their best batsman from the Test, had not reached the 50-run mark in his previous six innings and hence was dropped for the India tour. This knock certainly would have done wonders to his morale that will reflect in the upcoming matches. Talking of their other centurion, Roshan Silva, he scored his maiden Test ton in his second Test, which would have given him a major boosting. Meanwhile, de Silva, who helped Sri Lanka save the Delhi Test with with his unbeaten 119, scored a second consecutive ton that came in Chittagong.
Bangladesh will do everything to register their first Test series win at home against any Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan players must carry the same momentum into the second Test. There was neither bounce nor turn on the pitch and it sure was bashed for making the Test dead because it offered nothing to the bowlers but the scene won’t be the same in Dhaka. For the bowlers to come into the picture there, the batsmen will have to keep the same intent and aggression intact and walk into the Dhaka Test with an aim to win it.