Rain and Mushfiqur keep Sri Lanka at bay

A Test that had been meandering for the first two days sprung to life on the third day at the Galle International Stadium yesterday. Sri Lanka were well and truly in the driving seat with a 182-run first innings lead after getting Bangladesh out for 312 and the rain, which allowed only two balls in the last session, remains Bangladesh's best hope of not losing the first Test and going down 1-0 in the two-match series.

Those two balls were enough to wrap up the innings after tea was taken five minutes early because of insufficient light caused by the onrushing clouds. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim, with a 161-ball 85, was instrumental in Bangladesh avoiding the follow-on as he built a 106-run partnership with Mehedi Hasan Miraz that took Bangladesh from 192 for six to 298 for seven, with the latter's wicket precipitating a collapse of four wickets for 14 runs.

Mustafizur Rahman was caught freakishly at short leg off Sri Lanka skipper Rangana Herath, with Kusal Mendis looking to evade a hard flick that lodged in his arms, two balls after play resumed. When the Sri Lankan batsmen walked out 10 minutes later, the umpires were coming off due to bad light and an ensuing shower washed out the rest of the session.

Play will start 15 minutes early at 10:15am (Bangladesh time) today, with plans for the teams to make up eight overs per day over the next two days. But with around 20 overs lost despite that measure and with scattered thundershowers forecast in the morning and afternoon tomorrow, it may be hard for Sri Lanka to produce a result.

Earlier, the day began as bleakly as it ended for Bangladesh when, after resuming on a healthy 133 for two, half-centurion Soumya Sarkar departed off the fourth ball he faced on the day. The last ball of the third over of the day, the 49th of the innings, was a short ball from Lakmal that drew a hesitant, half-cock pull from Soumya that was gobbled up at fine leg.

While Mushfiqur was monk-like in his eschewing of risky shots at the other end, Shakib Al Hasan had come in and started attacking the bowling. He was his usual busy self and hit a boundary off Sandakan off the fifth ball he faced, benefiting from a misfield at mid-off from Lahiru Kumara. A kitchen-sink, top-edged pull that went for six over fine leg followed and Shakib was soon on 23 off 18, but he failed to read a googly from Sandakan that landed on middle stump and Shakib followed it down the leg side, feathering an edge that was well taken by keeper Niroshan Dickwella on the move.

Mahmudullah Riyad strode in with the score on 170 for four in the 56th over and hit a classy front-foot punch through cover off the fourth ball he faced. He stuck around for 24 more balls for four more runs. In the 63rd over with the score on 184, Kumara went wide of the crease and delivered a straight ball aimed at the off stump. Riyad, perhaps with Kumara's pace and the yorker he bowled to him earlier at the back of his mind, stayed rooted to his crease and played inside the line of the ball, which missed the bat and found its target.

Liton Das then played a terrible shot to an innocuous delivery from Rangana Herath, which started outside off stump from around the wicket and stayed well outside after pitching, but Liton threw his hands at it without moving his feet and was caught at slip for five to leave his captain staring into space at the non-striker's end. Bangladesh were then on 191 for six in the 66th over and in real danger of falling short of the follow-on target of 295.

Miraz came in and punished two over-pitched deliveries from Herath through cover and point for four off the front foot, but he too was guilty of over-exuberance when on nine he was deceived by a Sandakan googly and guided the ball to Asela Gunaratne at slip. Fortunately for Bangladesh, that chance was dropped and lunch was soon taken with the score on 213 for six and Mushfiqur maintaining the strictest of vigils on 22 off 84 balls.

Miraz settled down after lunch as Mushfiqur started opening up, showing why he is technically and temperamentally the best batsman Bangladesh have. He hit his first boundary by advancing down the track and hitting a six straight over bowler Herath's head in the fifth ball after the break.

While in the morning he was avoiding the short balls Kumara bowled -- at one stage in the 67th over a 145 kph bouncer hit him flush on the helmet and went for four byes -- Mushfiqur displayed solid command of the hook shot with a hammer blow that raced to the right of square leg in the 77th over bowled by Kumara. He reached his 50 off his 107th delivery with a single in the 79th over.

Miraz was also batting well, following his captain's example. He was given out after an arm-ball from Herath seemed to hit him flush on the pads, but the decision was overturned as replays showed an inside edge. There was no inside edge, however, when he was pinged on the pads while playing on the back foot by Perera with a sharp turner that pitched on middle and straightened. By that time however, he had helped his captain overcome the follow-on target with a 107-run stand to which he contributed a 77-ball 41. In the very next ball, Taskin Ahmed was given out leg-before upon review by the Sri Lankans.

Mushfiqur was on 75 during Perera's double-wicket burst, and hit a defiant down-the-track boundary in Perera's next over, but the cat-and-mouse game of protecting Subashis Roy from the strike proved too much when he stepped out and played against the spin to a Herath arm-ball to be bowled for a courageous and resolute 85.

source: Daily Star