Lunch Sri Lanka 295 for 1 (Dhananjaya 170*, Mendis 125*, Mehidy 1-52) trail Bangladesh 513 by 218 runs
Eight tense overs. That’s about all the difficulty Dhananjaya de Silva and Kusal Mendis had to face on the third morning, before they began to march smartly onward, ticking off a number of personal milestones as they did. Their partnership – and Sri Lanka’s score – at 295 at lunch, Bangladesh began to appear haggard in the field for the first time in the Test. This pitch, for all the early predictions, remains good for batting. The hosts were also perhaps guilty of under-bowling Mehidy Hasan – the only man to have claimed a wicket in this innings.
As had been the case on day two, Kusal Mendis was the less adept of the two batsmen, and as had been the case when he was on 4, then 57, he sent a ball at catchable height through the slip cordon, this time perfectly splitting first and second slip. That half-chance, off the bowling of Mustafizur Rahman, had come when Mendis was on 83, and there would be more moments of insecurity in the following overs. He had his outside edge repeatedly beaten by Taijul Islam, and was often at pains to pierce the infield.
Eventually, with a little help from de Silva, who had commenced an attack at the other end, Mendis broke free and began to score with more ease. He ran down the pitch to lift Sunzamul Islam over mid-on to reach his fourth Test hundred off the 200th delivery he faced, then settled into a steady rhythm of singles and twos for the rest of the session. Only the bad balls – generally errors in length – were struck by Mendis to the boundary.
Meanwhile, de Silva’s confidence was soaring. He was watchful for only six overs, before laying into Mustafizur, flicking him gracefully through midwicket to take Sri Lanka to 200, before squirting him past gully for another boundary, two balls later. A little later, he flitted down the pitch to launch Taijul over long-on for six, and clipped Sunzamul over midwicket next over. At one stage he hit 34 runs off 28 deliveries, and though he slowed toward the end of the session, he was no less assured at the crease. His 156th run was his 1000th in Test cricket. Having scored it in his 23rd Test innings, de Silva joined Roy Dias and Michael Vandort as the fastest Sri Lankans to the milestone.
The most curious aspect of Bangladesh’s morning tactics was the long delay in introducing Mehidy to the attack. Mahmudullah was seen in conversation with Mehidy more than once, but having also only bowled eight overs the previous day, it was not until the last 15 minutes of the morning session was Mehidy thrown the ball. Now desperate for a breakthrough, Bangladesh will hope that the second new ball, which is only one over away, will envenom them after lunch.