Thankfully, the second Test at Pallekele produced a result and when the Sri Lankan batters were scoring runs heavily on the first day it seemed that we were all set for another five days of daddy hundreds and boring batting display without being tested.

Well, Pallekele changed its nature and tested the batters and when the pressure rises, it is always known that Bangladesh melt in the 5-day formats.

Impressive Praveen Jayawickrama

Tamim Iqbal was creating havoc in reply to Sri Lanka’s massive first innings total on the second day. His counterattack disturbed the line and length of the Sri Lankan new-ball bowlers and Ramesh Mendis.

With Tamim, Saif Hasan was just providing the supporting role. The boundaries were coming thick and fast as if Bangladesh had a train to chase and it was during that breezy partnership, Dimuth Karunaratne decided to throw the ball towards a young left-arm orthodox bowler – Praveen Jayawickrama, who was also playing in his first Test.

It was the fourteenth over of the Bangladesh innings when Jayawickrama came onto bowl. Saif Hasan was the batsman and his first ball in test cricket was angled into the offstump line that was defended. The next five deliveries were also around that offstump line and that line of attack would remain consistent throughout the Test.

In his second over, Tamim invited him with a boundary because the ball released late and Tamim got enough time to react and it was a lesson well learned – he would not release the ball late more often and the next five deliveries hinted that he was a quick learner as he released the ball early for gaining enough loop and drift.

The century opening partnership was just around the corner with Tamim in full flow and while bowling the overs, Jayawickrama was working more and more on pitching the ball consistently on that middle and offstump line on a good and back of a length – it was a disciplined approach with the intention to expose the edge when the batters would attempt to defend on the front foot only mix caution with aggression.

And, guess what, the plan worked – Jayawickrama dished out one delivery with enough flight and drift that turned away after pitching in and around the middle and offstump line – Saif, technically, inefficient, got forward, exposed his edge and the fielder at gully grabbed the catch.

Ramesh Mendis stuck to the same theory as Nazmul Hossain Shanto exposed his edge at the stroke of lunch on Day 2.

After the break, two left-handers were at the crease and they were finding it quite easier handling Jayawickrama despite his disciplined line of attack.

Bangladesh were building a neat partnership until Jayawickrama decided to change the angle of the delivery against Tamim and before doing that he witnessed a floated-up delivery falling short of the short-leg fielder.   The angle was coming into the left-hander from over the wicket and thus to expose the outside edge, he went around the wicket for the next delivery.

Jayawickrama tossed one up, dipping onto Tamim after pitching around the middle and offtsump and straightened enough to lure Tamim forward and defend – the outside edge was exposed and Lahiru Thirimanne did the rest.

Mushfiqur Rahim came in started to dominate Jayawickrama because he was playing the ball late by getting behind the line of the delivery and he was the one who executed the sweep shot very well against Jayawickrama – of course, the sweep shot is the most productive stroke against such left-arm orthodox bowlers who target the middle and offstump line and it is always sensible to play late.

Obviously, if you misjudge the length and execute a false stroke then it is your fault – while batting on forty, Mushfiq went on the back foot to cut against a delivery that pitched on the fullish side of the good length and his bat came down from the slip rather than staying straight – the gap between bat and pad was exposed and the pace of the delivery allowed it to hit the pad first.

Such things happen when someone is playing a long innings rather than batting in his forties.

The poor judgment of Mushfiq helped Jayawickrama as he was on a roll.

And, even Mominul Haque followed the same path.

After the defeat, he cited the toss factor but forgot how he lost his concentration while batting on just 49 in a Test – You don’t get out leg before wicket by a full toss, do you?

Liton Das was undone by a delivery that turned and bounced enough leaving Jayawickrama delirious.

The tail was exposed and Mehidy Hasan – being a spinner himself – was trying to decipher the bowling of Jayawickrama, but in came the tossed up and well-flighted delivery which was released wide – Mehidy attempted to hit through midwicket but the ball hit the pad and he had to walk for the pavilion with his head down.

A five-wicket haul on debut for Jayawickrama and he bagged six after nailing Taskin Ahmed.

Ramesh Mendis joins the party

In the fourth innings the pair of Mendis and Jayawickrama simply stripped the Bangladeshi batting lineup.

With the track providing more and more assistance for the spinners, a Bangladeshi humiliation was on the cards.

Jayawickrama was turning it at will while Mendis was enjoying from the other end as well – Jaya was putting the ball consistently on that above-mentioned line while Mendis relied on his orthodox turn and the line of attack was more or less the same as Jaya.

While Mendis has been a batting allrounder at the lower levels, Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur even before this series had identified his bowling as a potential asset to the Test side.

Mendis chipped in with the wickets of Tamim, Mominul, and Mushfiq by exposing their poor temperament under pressure.

Jayawickrama the first Sri Lankan to take a 10-wicket haul on his Test debut and his match figures of 11-178 are the tenth best by a debutant in history.

The previous Sri Lankan record was the 8-44 taken by Akila Dananjaya in Dhaka three years ago, also against Bangladesh.

Jayawickrama is also the first debutant since India’s Narendra Hirwani in 1988 to take a five-wicket haul in both innings.

The Bangladeshi top order collapsed without showing any sort of fight and intent as Sri Lanka pocketed a thumping 209-run victory.

“Praveen was fantastic and Ramesh too,” said Karunaratne, who won the player-of-the-series award for his scores of 244, 118, and 66 in three innings.

“I think they need to play Test matches regularly and build confidence, and if they do that, they will fill the shoes of Dilruwan (Perera) and Rangana (Herath) for sure.”

“Praveen does the simple things well. He pitches the ball in the right spot. That’s something we saw from Rangana Herath as well. He makes the batsman play and gives the ball a chance to do something. When you play at this level, you have to have that consistency in line and length. He did his job 100% and played like a bowler who had more than his ten first-class matches. It’s a great sign for the future of our Test cricket.

“The seniors just gave both bowlers confidence. Some players can panic at times when they come into the Test arena because they try a lot of things. What we tried to tell them was to play as if they would a regular first-class game, and to handle the pressure that way. Praveen absorbed pressure really well.”

“At a time when we didn’t have anyone experienced, both bowlers came and bowled like experienced players. I think Ramesh also gave Praveen a lot of help from the other end, in terms of building pressure. That bowling partnership was good, and they had an understanding because they also play for the same club [Moors Sports Club].”

“Ramesh can improve a little bit more in terms of his lines and lengths, but it’s also his second Test, and when he gets to 15-20 Tests, he’ll be able to get the hang of all that.”

Bangladesh defeat is not surprising

The Bangladeshi humiliation is not surprising at all as soon as the Pallekele track started to change its nature from the second day because the batters more often relish dead decks and not those which test their technique and temperament.

In the first Test, the ball hardly moved or turned and on Day 1 of the second Test it seemed the same, but at the fag end of first day, the track gave evidence of sharp turn.  On the second day, the track was still good enough to bat and it was during that phase of the match where Bangladesh should have cashed in.

Sadly, when batters like Tamim, Mominul, and Mushfiq who boast the experience of 168 Test matches in between them, exhibit a lack of commitment under trying circumstances then what the youngsters can learn from the seniors other than displaying shakiness!

The failures of players like Saif Hasan and Nazmul Hossain don’t give any hope for the future while the lack of teeth among the pacers continues to frustrate. Taskin Ahmed was decent but in a 5-day format, it requires more.

After 20 years – Bangladesh remain poor in Test cricket – a scenario which started to change under Chandika Hathurusingha.

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