Jayasuriya thrills fans

After the match against India, Habibul Bashar could have been forgiven for harbouring hopes that his side had finally arrived, such was the inevitability of that victory. But, the hopes were dashed. A report by S. Ram Mahesh.

The match ceased being a contest as early as the 14th over. Hindsight tells us that much. After Bangladesh captain Habibul Bashar won the toss and elected to bowl — "it was doing a lot early on, definitely the right decision" — his opening bowlers let him down.

So formidable against India, Mashrafe Mortaza and Syed Rasel struggled with control. That they still produced unplayable deliveries highlighted the opportunity Bangladesh squandered. Sanath Jayasuriya and Upul Tharanga ensured they didn't give their wickets to loose strokes; Jayasuriya in particular attacked.

The Sri Lankan openers forced Bashar into being defensive. Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, and Chamara Silva capitalised on the advantage and added meat to the total. "We knew they had just five bowlers," said Jayawardene. "We didn't want to give them early wickets because then these five become seven. If you can keep wickets in hand, these five become four. They have a set pattern, and we disturbed this pattern.

"We kept asking questions of them, `Do you have the variety in bowling to do this?' We always knew we had the batsmen to turn over the strike in the middle overs. Once Sanath (Jayasuriya) and Upul (Tharanga) played out 14 overs for nearly 100, we could enjoy ourselves."

Jayasuriya went off the field with cramp. But he resumed on 83 later in the innings and brought up his 24th ODI hundred with a six. Only Sachin Tendulkar with 41 centuries has more. "It did a bit early, so I was happy I could play that out," said Jayasuriya. "I'm not too worried about how many hundreds I make. They should help the team win."

At 37, Jayasuriya continues to astound observers. Jayawardene said the left-hander was among the three fittest men in the squad. His innings against Bangladesh proved his eye hadn't dimmed.

Jayawardene, dropped by Bashar on 24, chose the sweep as his boundary-clearing stroke. But, Saqibul Hasan conned him in flight — an excellent bit of bowling — to have him caught at long-off. The skipper's innings wasn't entirely convincing. He was let off at least thrice by Bangladesh's fielding, which had slipped spectacularly from the standards it set against India.

Sangakkara hustled twos off wonderfully orthodox punches, hitting just a four and a six in his first 40 runs. Chamara Silva struggled initially, but a late cut freed him. The lofted six that followed was the most beautiful stroke of the innings. The pair added 59 runs in 9.1 overs before Jayasuriya returned.

Bangladesh pursued the target more in hope than any real conviction. Chaminda Vaas proved too canny, Lasith Malinga too quick. Muttiah Muralitharan could have had any number of wickets — indeed he seemed to appeal every other ball, and Hawk Eye backed him more often than not, but he had to make do with one.

Mohammad Ashraful defied. But, the result was never in any doubt. "If this performance doesn't give us confidence, nothing will," said Jayawardene. "We focussed on our strengths rather than worry about what other sides were doing."

Bashar was understandably downcast. After the match against India, he could have been forgiven for harbouring hopes that his side had finally arrived, such was the inevitability of that victory. But, the hopes were dashed.

"Nothing went right, it was a sad, sorry match for us," said Bashar. "They played very well. This will puncture the confidence just a bit. But, it shouldn't affect us too much."

Jayawardene believed the defeat would help Bangladesh cricket grow. Bashar's side is in the midst of exciting times — any of these moments may be looked back on years from now, and pointed to as the point of inflection.

"I think we played very well; it wasn't surrender from them," said Jayawardene. "We forced it. But, they have a lot of talent, and they will learn from this defeat."

THESCORES

Group B: Bangladesh v Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka won by 198 runs (D/L method).

Sri Lanka: U Tharanga c Aftab b Rafique 26; S. Jayasuriya c Bashar b Razzak 109; M. Jayawardene c Aftab b Hasan 46; K. Sangakkara c Iqbal b Rasel 56; C. Silva (not out) 52; R. Arnold (not out) 5; Extras (lb-11, w-10, nb-3) 24. Total (for four wkts. in 50 overs) 318.

Fall of wkts: 1-98, 1-137* (Jayasuriya, retired not out), 2-202, 3-261, 4-300.

Bangladesh bowling: Mortaza 10-0-66-0; Rasel 10-0-58-1; Razzak 10-0-86-1; Rafique 10-0-48-1; Hasan 10-0-49-1.

Bangladesh: T. Iqbal c Sangakkara b Malinga 6; S. Nafees lbw b Vaas 0; M. Rahim c Dilshan b Maharoof 6; Aftab c Jayasuriya b Malinga 12; S. Hasan b Muralitharan 4; H. Bashar (run out) 18; M. Ashraful (not out) 45; M. Mortaza c Tharanga b Arnold 7; M. Rafique c Maharoof b Dilshan 7; A. Razzak c Sangakkara b Malinga 0; S. Rasel (run out) 0; Extras (lb-2, w-4, nb-1) 7. Total (in 37 overs) 112.

Fall of wkts: 1-1, 2-7, 3-20, 4-26, 5-41, 6-66, 7- 80, 8-101, 9-111.

Sri Lanka bowling: Vaas 7-4-11-1; Malinga 6-0- 27-3; Maharoof 7-1-26-1; Muralitharan 9-0-15-1; Jayasuriya 1.5-0-2-0; Arnold 3.1-0-17-1; Dilshan 3-0-12-1.