Bowlers rule day of twists and turns

If a Test match is expected to be a lively and engaging affair, the first day of the second Test at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur delivered in style yesterday. Turn and bounce from the word go tested the batsmen of both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and in the end bowlers dictated terms with 14 wickets falling on the day, giving a strong indication that it will not be a tedious affair like the run-fest that was the first Test in Chittagong.

The day that started with the shining comeback of veteran left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak, who claimed four wickets on his Test return after a four-year absence, was full of action from start to stumps, which Bangladesh reached in a forlorn state as they lost four wickets for 56 runs in reply to Sri Lanka’s 222.

In contrasting fashion, Bangladesh’s bowlers earned their wickets through fine bowling whereas the home batsmen gifted their wickets to the opposition. Tamim Iqbal’s half-forward drive in the very third ball of the innings immediately after a magnificent boundary offered a return catch to Suranga Lakmal. First-Test hero Mominul Haque ran himself out in unacceptable fashion as the left-hander simply forgot about the need to ground his bat after a run when a throw was fired at his end. Mushfiqur Rahim was bowled shouldering arms despite Lakmal warning him twice in the over in the form of sharp inswingers in the previous deliveries.

Finally, Imrul Kayes lost yet another review for his side as the left-hander was trapped in front of middle and leg by off-spinner Dilruwan Perera after playing for the turn.

With his colleagues’ inept batting as the backdrop, Liton Das’s measured batting kept home hopes alive as the right-hander remained unbeaten on 24. It was also a good decision from captain Mahmudullah Riyad to not come out to bat at the fall of Imrul’s wicket late in the day and sending in Mehedi Hasan Miraz, who was batting on five. Still trailing by 166 runs, Bangladesh will need to show real character to take a first-innings lead to have a shot at winning the match on a difficult wicket.

Earlier, it was Razzak’s morning and afternoon as the veteran left-armer made good use of the surface to scalp four wickets. He got good support from another left-arm spinner in Taijul Islam, who also claimed four wickets, and pacer Mustafizur Rahman who bowled brilliantly to put huge pressure on the Lankan batsmen on way to capturing two wickets.

“It wasn’t an unplayable wicket. This type of turn is evident in a lot of places. It wasn’t stopping or keeping low,” said Razzak after the day’s play. Instead of the pitch, the veteran spinner deserved credit for his craftiness while initiating the early damage in the morning session, especially the way he angled the delivery to bring Dimuth Karunaratne out of the crease to be stumped down the leg side, pushed Danushka Gunathilaka onto the back foot to draw a mistake, before bowling a peach to burst through the defences of skipper Dinesh Chandimal. Finally, shortly after lunch, he got rid of Kusal Mendis, who made it possible for his side to put a competitive total with 68-run knock.  A delivery from Razzak pitched on off and middle and spun enough to beat Mendis’s forward defence and hit off stump.

Roshen Silva was the other half-centurion in the Sri Lanka innings before he was caught behind off a near unplayable Taijul delivery.

The bowlers’ efforts were brilliantly aided by two spectacular catches from Mushfiqur, but Sabbir Rahman spilled a catch at slip off Dilruwan Perera that allowed the visitors a few extra runs.

It’s very tough to predict the result of a Test after first day’s play, but Razzak made it clear that this match will see a result and also expressed his optimism over a turnaround by Bangladesh after the early batting setback.

“I think it is definitely a result-oriented wicket and the match, given its current state, may not go to the fifth day. Every session has different characteristics. There’s always room to recover in a Test match. I think we lost two wickets too many but I think we can recover from here.”