Sri Lanka set for big victory in first Test

Colombo, June 27:

Sri Lanka closed in on an innings victory in the first Test after breaking Bangladesh’s dour resistance with the bat here on Wednesday.

Bangladesh, trailing by 488 runs on the first innings, were 233-5 in their second knock when bad light stopped play 10.3 overs early on the third day. The tourists still need 255 runs to make Sri Lanka bat again with five wickets in hand.

Bangladesh, who were shot out for 89 in the first innings, put on an improved batting display in their second innings as opener Javed Omar hit 62 and Rajin Saleh chipped in with 51.

Bangladesh were cruising at 227-3 in the final session when Sri Lanka hit back with the wickets of Saleh and captain Mohammad Ashraful (37) in the space of four runs.

Tillakaratne Dilshan ended a fourth-wicket stand of 67 between Saleh and Ashraful when he forced Saleh to edge a catch to Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene in the slips. Three overs later, Ashraful holed out in the deep off Muttiah Muralitharan. Shakib-Al Hasan was batting on four and Khaled Mashud was yet to score.

Openers Omar and Shahriar Nafees (38), who resumed at the overnight score of 3-0, frustrated the Sri Lankans by carving out 86 for the first wicket.

Omar began by driving Chaminda Vaas through the covers thrice in one over and then flicked two consecutive fours off Lasith Malinga at the other end. Nafees straight drove Vaas and pulled Malinga before bringing up the 50 partnership by lofting off-spinner Muralitharan for a four.

Muralitharan, who bagged five wickets in the first innings, finally broke through 30 minutes before lunch when he took a hard return catch off a Nafees straight drive. Omar, who was 52 at lunch, added 10 more runs when his brave knock was ended by a vicious yorker from Malinga that trapped the batsman in front of the wicket and injured his right toe.

Habibul Bashar made 17 when he hung his bat out to an Vaas outswinger and was snapped up behind the stumps by Prasanna Jayawardene. Saleh and Ashraful carried the score from 160-3 to 227 before Bangladesh were set back by the dismissal of both batsmen.

Sri Lanka had piled up 577-6 before declaring their first innings with Mahela Jayawardene, opener Michael Vandort, wicket-keeper Prasanna Jayawardene and Vaas all scoring a century.

Bangladesh will play three Tests and as many one-day internationals on the Sri Lankan tour that ends on July 24.