Sri Lanka rested Lasith Malinga for this inconsequential final group leg affair. It didn’t matter much because the wearing Sher-e-Bangla Stadium pitch gave enough purchase to their spinners and the Islanders strangled Bangladesh with their spin. The slow bowlers triggered a middle-order collapse that saw the hosts only manage 204 for nine in 50 overs.
The target was never going to pose a threat to Sri Lanka despite the fact that Bangladesh bowlers kept it tight for most of the innings and also made early inroads. Sri Lanka lost their first three wickets for eight runs and then lost half the side with just 75 runs on the board. But they were always one substantial partnership away from the target.
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Skipper Angelo Mathews and Chaturanga de Silva provided that with an 82-run stand for the sixth wicket and the former stayed till the end to secure a three-wicket win with six balls to spare. Sri Lanka finished the group stage with an all-win record.
Mathews’ 103-ball 74 not out was all about top-class application in difficult conditions. He picked the gaps perfectly and never looked to be in a hurry. The first boundary, a six in fact, arrived after he played 16 balls. He then went into a shell again. Mathews had time on his side and Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim allowed his partnership with De Silva to flourish by holding back his better bowlers.
Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah were brought back to bowl in tandem only after 35 overs but by then Sri Lanka were safe. It has to be said, though, that De Silva’s 52-ball 44 put pressure on the opposition and allowed his captain to play at his own pace. Though there were only a few balls left at the end, Sri Lanka were always in control.
Wickets in a heap
Earlier, Bangladesh failed to survive Sri Lanka’s spin-punch and lost wickets in a heap in the middle-overs. Ajantha Mendis started the damage with the wicket of opener Shamsur Rahaman, who till then, was going slow but steady. But a looping off-spinner from Mendis caught him plumb in front and Bangladesh lost their first wicket with 74 runs on the board in 18.2 overs.
Mominul Haque departed just two runs later, missing a straight delivery from Mendis to lose his off stump. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim tried to improvise but misjudged the length of a De Silva delivery to be out leg before. Anamul Haque, who batted well for his 49, departed to a spectacular diving catch from Lahiru Thirimanne at mid-wicket. Part-time off spinner Ashan Priyanjan was the bowler.
Shakib tried to up the ante but was caught at short mid-wicket by Mathews off Priyanjan. Bangladesh slumped to 119 for five in 33.2 overs and there was always very little chance of a proper recovery, though Nasir Hossain and Mahmudullah added 55 runs for the sixth wicket.
Bangladesh now have lost seven ODIs in a row — three in the bilateral home series against Sri Lanka and all four in the Asia Cup. They have to rectify their performance soon to qualify for the World T20 proper. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, have been the most dominant side of the tournament. But Mahela Jayawardene’s run-less stint remains a concern ahead of the final against Pakistan on Saturday. The experienced middle-order batsman was run out today for a duck. He has scored just 36 runs in four innings in this tournament.