Tigers’ start first Test with a bang

Staff Correspondent

Published:22 Apr 2021, 11:46 AM

Tigers’ start first Test with a bang

Bangladesh’s right mix of aggression and caution allowed them to run away with the advantage on the first day of their first Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele. Najmul Hossain Shanto‘s maiden Test hundred headlined Bangladesh’s batting effort, while Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque added meat to the day’s total with two very different half-centuries. Tigers’ to start second day of play with 302/2 on the scoreboard, skipper Mominul not out at 64 and maiden centurion Shanto at 126 not out. 

Shanto, under fire after low scores against West Indies earlier this year, initially supported a rampant Iqbal during their 144-run second-wicket stand, and then, after his senior partner’s exit for a 101-ball 90, strengthened Bangladesh’s position with an unbroken 150-run third-wicket stand with his captain. Shanto struck 14 fours and a six as he moved to 126 off 288 balls by the end of the day, while Haque was not out on 64 off 150 balls, having struck six boundaries. Shanto did take 38 balls to move from 90 to 100, but it was in the third session, at a point in the game when Bangladesh could afford to focus on not losing wickets. Sri Lanka were more disciplined in the third session than in the first two, when they looked too eager for wickets. Suranga Lakmal shifted sides far too many times, while Lahiru Kumara bowled fast but looked like he was trying too hard, spraying the ball around at times. Wanindu Hasaranga, too, couldn’t provide an attacking edge. Vishwa Fernando didn’t really bowl much better than the others, but took both the wickets to fall on the day.

What really put Bangladesh in front was Iqbal’s powerful start. It allowed them room to bat at a pace of their choice at every juncture on the day, and they added 106 and 94 in the first and second sessions. Saif Hassan’s second duck in his third Test - lbw in the second over - became nothing more than a blip as Iqbal flayed the bowling. He had struck six fours before Shanto opened his account, and had moved to 43 with nine fours in the first hour. Dimuth Karunaratne had to shuffle his bowlers, using up his six options in the first session. Kumara showed off his pace but was quite wayward, while Lakmal couldn’t really decide his angle against the two left-handers. Iqbal and Shanto went on to add 144 runs, the first century stand for Bangladesh for the second wicket since November 2018. Iqbal drove with panache, particularly straight down the ground against the three fast bowlers - and also struck five fours through the covers and played one superb square-cut off Fernando in the second session. His dismissal on 90 was against the run of play. At a stage when Karunaratne looked out of ideas, Iqbal guided a late-cut off Fernando to slip, where Lahiru Thirimanne took a diving catch to his right. 

This was the second time Iqbal had been dismissed in the 90s in his Test career, and his wait for a tenth Test century continued. But Shanto and Haque didn’t skip a beat in their third-wicket association. They were circumspect to start with in the second session, and Shanto, who was dropped on 28 by wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella, reached his second Test fifty with a nicely guided four past the point fielder. He did attack briefly during the afternoon session, hitting Dhananjaya de Silva for a six and a four in the space of three deliveries at one point, but it was mostly off purely short balls that he tried to hit boundaries. They added 102 runs in 37 overs in an extended third session, mostly milking the bowling with singles to the deep-set fields. When Shanto did break the boundary drought with a superb cover drive in the 74th over, it took him to his century. He later struck two consecutive fours off Lakmal, stamping his authority with a straight drive and a cover drive. Bangladesh dominated from start to finish, a rare experience for them in an overseas Test.