Sri Lanka did post a humdinger type of 311 on the back of a 107 ball 102 by Kusal Mendis, but that rain had to be a spoiler to the effort of evening things in the second ODI at the Dambulla Stadium in Tuesday’s day-night game was dampening to that cause. On a day that the second wicket pair of Upul Tharanga and Mendis ruffled the Bangladesh bowlers in a 111-run alliance, the rains were a blow to Sri Lanka’s chances of pulling off a win that would have put the home team in contention in the 3-match series. As it is, Sri Lanka is left with the prospect of having to play the final match to square the series.
It was a day that breathed a belligerent thrust to Sri Lanka’s top order despite the early loss of Dhanushka Gunatilleke with the total on 18 that Tharanga, in his 200th ODI tucked to a back seat in collaring the bowling. The skipper reeled off a boundary flurry – two in the eighth over, and a third in the tenth to set things in motion for an initially scratchy Mendis to capitalize on. As Mendis got in to his element, Tharanga produced a semblance of cri Lanka in control. That he lost his wicket in the bizarre of trying to steal a quick run that ignited a direct hit was one of those despairs of being cut short when looking set for three figure bigger things. But Sri Lanka’s run march continued in an 83-run third wicket partnership between Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal. That Mendis went on to make Dambulla the stage for his maiden ton inclusive of 9 boundaries and a six in 164 minutes was a significant personal milestone. In an international career spanning just one year and five months, and only eight months in to his ODI career that the 22-year old stepped in to on June 16 against Ireland, the ton marked an important climb up the ladder for the colt from Moratuwa in the wake of his two Test tons to date. Of course, home fans will be wishing that the young star finds the fusion of consistency that would catapult the right hander on to the flurry of getting on with the job; the type of silver lining that a Tendulkar, Jayawardene or Sangakkara brought in to their early career that sets apart greatness.
After Mendis departed with the total on 216 for 4 after Chandimal’s dismissal for 24, the fifth wicket pair of and Asela Gunaratne and Milinda Siriwardena ensured the scoreboard kept ticking in a 55-run partnership before Bangladesh had their moment of joy in a last over hat-trick by Taskin Ahmed whose victims were Asela Gunaratne – 39 off 28 balls inclusive of four fours and a six -, Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep.
In a series of cricket exchanges between the two countries that has thus far seen Bangladesh on a high in a drawn 1-all Test series that capped a maiden win against Sri Lanka in the minnows centenary match, the final ODI at the SSC on April 1 does assume centre stage trappings. While Bangladesh will be howling for a maiden series triumph egged by the 1-nil lead, for Sri Lanka the onus of winning and squaring the series does make it a crucially demanding mission for Upul Tharanga and his charges.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-