Rain plays spoilsport

Kandy, July 11:

Sri Lanka began their bid to sweep the Test series against Bangladesh with quick wickets on the rain-curtailed first day of the third and final Test here on Wednesday.

Just 29 overs were bowled during the day in which Bangladesh, sent in to bat for the third successive time in the series, groped to 72-4 at stumps. Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan took 2-10 in nine overs, taking his career tally to 690 wickets and just 18 away from equalling retired Australian spinner Shane Warne’s world record haul of 708.

The seasonal monsoon rains had not interfered with the first two Tests, allowing Sri Lanka to win both matches by innings margins to take a decisive 2-0 lead in the series.

But inclement weather caught up with the cricket in Kandy as only 12 overs were bowled in the morning session, 5.4 overs in the post-lunch period and 11.2 overs after tea. That, however, was enough for the Sri Lankan bowlers to run through the Bangladeshi top order with the wickets of Javed Omar (eight), Habibul Bashar (18), Rajin Saleh (0) and Shahriar Nafees (29).

When bad light ended play, captain Mohammad Ashraful was on four and Tushar Imran was on six.

Bangladesh fared better in overcast conditions despite losing Omar in the third over, trapped leg-before by Lasith Malinga. Nafees and Bashar put on 40 for the second wicket between the rain breaks when seamer Farveez Maharoof forced Bashar to glove a catch to wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene after lunch.

When play resumed after tea, Muralitharan struck twice in quick succession to reduce Bangladesh to 64-4. Rajin Saleh edged a straight ball to Mahela Jayawardene in the slips. Nafees hit out against Muralitharan and offered a tame catch to Sujeewa De Silva at mid-off.

Sri Lanka made three changes from the side that clinched the series in the second Test at the P Sara stadium in Colombo last week. The hosts recalled opener Upul Tharanga and new-ball bowlers Maharoof and De Silva. The trio replaced Chaminda Vaas, opener Malinda Warnapura and fast bowler Dilhara Fernando.