Bangladesh skipper Mushfiqur Rahim kept his nerve strong enough to reach his and Bangladesh’s first ever double hundred.
The records stacked up and so did the individual milestones. After the captain Mushfiqur Rahim became the first Bangladesh batsman to score a double-century, Nasir Hossain brought up his maiden century to help Bangladesh pass their previous highest Test score of 556, ending with 638. Bangladesh finished with a lead of 68, also taking a psychological advantage against tired Sri Lankan outfit unaccustomed to spending so much time in the field in their favourite home venue. With four sessions left in the Test, Sri Lanka saw through the first comfortably, losing just one wicket and leading by 48.
It was the first instance of three or more Bangladesh batsmen scoring centuries in an innings. Mohammad Ashraful fell ten short of a double century, showing remarkable composure till his dismissal for 190. Mushfiqur achieved what Ashraful couldn’t and that it came from the captain was all the more special. Nasir has been one of Bangladesh’s best emerging players, scoring four fifties in six Tests coming into this game. He finally converted one of his half-centuries, adding to Sri Lanka’s woes.
Ashraful had added just one run to his overnight score before he attempted to jump closer to 200 with a wild blow into the Galle city market. Rangana Herath tossed it up, Ashraful was down the track and only managed an outside edge to slip. The Mushfiqur-Ashraful stand produced 267 runs off 518 balls, beating the Bangladesh record for the longest partnership in terms of balls faced (498), set by Javed Omar and Nafees Iqbal against Zimbabwe in Dhaka in 2005.
Even after Ashraful’s dismissal, Mushfiqur’s concentration never wavered. Sri Lanka’s bowling hadn’t improved as they continued to hemorrhage runs. Shaminda Eranga managed to get some reverse swing with the old ball but he was guilty of full tosses, which were easily put away for boundaries. Nasir found his rhythm with a cut past point for four off Eranga and he remained positive, slogging Herath to deep midwicket and pulling half trackers from Ajantha Mendis and Tillakaratne Dilshan. Mendis struggled to find the right length, often dropping it too short on a slow pitch.
Of the two, Nasir was more aggressive, while Mushfiqur was willing to bide his time. Mushfiqur pierced the gaps, rotated the strike and showed some urgency towards the end of the session, as he looked to seal a double-ton before lunch with slogs down to deep midwicket. He eventually got there in the second over after lunch, with a punch to cover. Three balls later, he was trapped lbw by an inswinger from Nuwan Kulasekara. Mushfiqur threw his head back as he walked away, but he had led by example in the best possible manner, helping Bangladesh surpass all expectations.
Nasir progressed towards his century with a pull off Mendis and a scoop over mid-on. He clipped Mendis to square leg to pick up a single to bring up his hundred. He eventually fell pulling a short ball from Dilshan straight to midwicket. Nasir was aggressive in his approach from the beginning as Bangladesh looked for quick runs to try and build a lead and then have a go at Sri Lanka.
Nasir reached his century with the lead at 48, and fell soon after the landmark, pulling to midwicket. There could have been a case for having a few overs at the Sri Lankan openers, having spent two days in the field and possibly nipping out a wicket or two before tea, but Mushfiqur chose not to declare. Bangladesh are now getting the knack of posting totals in excess of 500, having scored 556 against West Indies two Test matches ago, and the number “638” is likely to figure in many future cricketing conversations involving Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka eventually wrapped up the innings in an extended session. Two dropped catches, one of which was a sitter spilled by Dilshan off his own bowling, was an example of their struggles.
With the pitch hardly showing any signs of wear and tear, and with only four sessions to go, a draw loomed. Dimuth Karunaratne failed to make the most of the good batting conditions, hooking a short ball from Shahadat Hossain straight to fine leg. Bangladesh had another chance at a breakthrough, when Kumar Sangakkara, on 13, got an outside edge off Sohag Gazi, only for Mushfiqur to fluff it. Dilshan, on 60, survived a confident shout for a catch at short leg towards the end of the day and the fielders’ reactions suggested that Dilshan was lucky to survive. Save for those two instances, the pair of Dilshan and Sangakkara found the going easy.
The only chance of a result is if Sri Lanka self destruct on the fifth day. With the pitch good to last another five days from here on, that seems unlikely. Nevertheless, it was another day for Bangladesh to savour.