Sri Lanka pile on the runs and eye big lead

Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva go across for a run
Bangladesh v Sri Lanka, 1st Test, Chittagong, 3rd day February 02, 2018

Sri Lanka 504 for 3 (Mendis 196, Dhananjaya 173, Roshen 87*) trail Bangladesh 513 by nine runs

Three-hundred-and-seventeen runs, for the loss of two wickets. So passed another batting day in Chittagong - a day on which Sri Lanka moved to a position of true strength for the first time in the game, and a day in which a draw became a distinct possibility, such is the absence of wear on this surface. Batsmen prospered more or less relentlessly, and only when the ball was new did it pose them challenges. Bangladesh's bowlers were ground down, two of them now having conceded over a hundred, and a third having given away 97. Fielders were run haggard. Only nine runs behind the opposition now, Sri Lanka have seven wickets remaining, and a shot at establishing a large first-innings lead.

It is to the overnight pair of Kusal Mendis and Dhananjaya de Silva that the first half of the day belonged, and they who ticked off a number of personal milestones during the course of their 308-run second-wicket stand. Mendis completed his fourth Test ton early in the day, before his scoring picked up speed in the afternoon session, and he went on to make 196. Dhananjaya, flowing and assertive (just as he had been on day two), hit a personal high score of 173, during the course of which he became Sri Lanka's equal-fastest batsman to 1000 Test runs along with Roy Dias and Michael Vandort. Mendis too registered his highest Test score, just pipping the 194 he had hit - also against Bangladesh - last year.

Once those two had departed, and after Mendis had forged a 22-over, 107-run association with Roshen Silva, the scoring slowed significantly. Dinesh Chandimal batted at his now-familiar laboured fashion, making 37 off 90 deliveries, with only one boundary to his name. Roshen was quicker, but hardly rapid. He went to stumps thirteen runs shy of a maiden Test hundred, having faced 173 deliveries. This was only his third Test innings.

For Bangladesh the day was one of missed opportunity. Mustafizur Rahman will feel he should have had Mendis out for the second time in the innings, when Mendis edged a back-of-a-length delivery. That chance, though, split first and second slip right down the middle, and Mendis was given a third reprieve on 83, having also edged wide of a slip fielder while on 4 and 57. Roshen would then have been stumped on 1, had wicketkeeper Liton Das collected a Mehidy Hasan delivery down the legside. Later another opportunity to dismiss Mendis - this time via a run-out - was also bungled. With Chandimal batting so sedately, there were no chances after tea. Bangladesh's only consolation was that they gave away just 88 in the third session, compared to 108 and 121 in the first two.

Their bowlers, however, have now got some serious overs into their legs. Taijul Islam - a particular workhorse - has gone through 51 overs, while Sunzamul has delivered 37. Though they did not bowl as tightly as they would have liked, at least some of the errors may justifiably be put down to fatigue. The pitch has given them so little.

It was Dhananjaya and Mendis who drove Sri Lanka most efficiently forward, and the two of them who each produced a sustained attack that defleated Bangladesh in each of the first two sessions. Dhananjaya was only watchful for the first six overs of the day. He soon laid into Mustafizur, and later attacked the spinners, often flitting down the pitch to launch them over the infield. Sweeps, dabs and flicks to the legside were all employed intelligently, with his most profitable stretch coming midway through the first session, when he hit 34 off 28 balls. He fell early in the second session to the second new ball. Aiming to pull a short, wide Mustafizur delivery, the ball shot up into the air off the top edge, and the wicketkeeper settled beneath it.

If such a thing is possible, Mendis had been relatively unconvincing through the first 119 of his runs, often flirting with away-spinning deliveries, and often threatening to edge Mustafizur behind as well. But the moment Dhananjaya was dismissed, Mendis was transformed into a precise and punishing strokemaker. It had taken 77 overs and he had scored 119 runs before he ventured his first intentional offside boundary, and now, in a flash, the whole field seemed to have opened up to him; he prospered either side of the pitch. It was still mainly the legside that he targeted, often shuffling towards off stump to whip the spinners over the legside infield, but drives and cuts had now more meaningfully entered his game. Having soaked up 270 balls to get to 136, Mendis' next 59 runs came off 49 deliveries.

It was the proximity to a double-ton, in the end, that did him in. Having been dismissed on 194 by Bangladesh last March, Mendis tried to loft Taijul on 196, in search of the boundary that would take him to the milestone. He ended up only holing out, sending the ball high in the air, for Mushfiqur Rahim to complete an excellent catch, running full pelt towards the boundary from midwicket.

Roshen was not quite as reserved at the crease as Chandimal, but he only ventured six boundaries before the close of play, the most memorable of which was the six over long-on, off Sunzamul Islam. Singles and twos accounted for 61 of his runs.

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