Sri Lanka's graft outdoes Bangladesh's millionaire approach

Dinesh Chandimal plays a back-foot punch
Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, tri-series final, Mirpur January 27, 2018

There is no shame in scoring slowly in a one-day game. Just ask Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dickwella and Dinesh Chandimal, who did so in the tri-series final. They batted at a combined strike-rate of 62.17 for 230 deliveries, hitting nine fours and a six altogether. But it was still their effort that got Sri Lanka the trophy in Mirpur.

It was a far cry from the home team's approach while chasing 222 on what was, at worst, a two-paced pitch. Only Mahmudullah seemed to put a price on his wicket. Otherwise, it was a procession of millionaires. Captain Mashrafe Mortaza had voiced his concerns about the batting line-up when Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal weren't making the big runs. He did so when they were bowled out for 82 in their previous game against Sri Lanka, and he raised it ahead of the final too.

Such talks must have been a feature of team meetings leading up to the final too. But on match day, they imploded, despite having witnessed Sri Lanka's batsmen keep the runs coming despite looking far from pretty.

Tharanga and Dickwella batted out 17.5 overs, after Kusal Mendis connected sweetly during an explosive 28. Tharanga survived two clear chances on 33 and 39. Thirty-one of his 56 runs came in front of square on both sides of the wicket. He hardly drove the ball uppishly, even if he looked iffy against most deliveries. He collected three of his five hard-earned boundaries behind the stumps.

Dickwella shed his cavalier ways as he struck just four boundaries in his 57-ball innings. He was the fastest of Sri Lanka's top three scorers, but you wouldn't have noticed. He struck two of his fours through midwicket and one over mid-off. The other came via a deft touch through third-man.

Chandimal batted till the 48th over to make 45 off 74 balls. His only boundary was a reverse-swept six. Despite being set, he hardly could accelerate in the last 10 overs in which Sri Lanka picked up only 54 runs. Rubel Hossain and Mustafizur Rahman tied them down with plenty of slower balls and full-length deliveries.

Bangladesh saw all this happening, but within a span of 45 minutes, they took refuge in their favourite cliché: playing their own game. 'We are only worried about our own game, not theirs', cricketers say these days. But this was a day when you, having seen how the opposition batted, needed to copy that.

One ball after being dropped, Tamim Iqbal slashed at Dushmantha Chameera to give mid-on a simple catch. Riding on good form, Tamim decided to get out of a rut by taking the aggressive option, despite knowing the injured Shakib Al Hasan wouldn't bat. It didn't pay off.

Still, Bangladesh had accomplished and proven performers to come. But one by one, they perished to their ego. Sabbir Rahman, knowing only one way to get out of trouble, tried to pull and lobbed a catch to short midwicket.

Mohammad Mithun was playing his first ODI in over three-and-a-half years, and while nerves are understandable, he ran between the wickets in a manner that didn't live up to his standards.

Even the seasoned Mushfiqur Rahim acted daftly. He survived an lbw review after trying to sweep Akila Dananjaya, then mistimed a reverse-sweep, before sweeping again off the same bowler, getting a top-edge to short fine-leg.

Mehidy Hasan Miraz and Mohammad Saifuddin have been identified as future prospects, but they haven't really become dependable batsmen. Saifuddin ran himself out poorly, while Mehidy hardly looked comfortable.

Mahmudullah was the last to fall, giving Shehan Madushanka a hat-trick on debut, but he was the only one who seemed to have understood what was required on this surface. He struck six fours and three sixes, but never got greedy. Like Tharanga, Dickwella and Chandimal, he respected the conditions. His teammates treated them like millionaires, and paid the price.

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