Muttiah Muralitharan's 6 for 54 wrapped up Bangladesh for just 181 in their second innings and set Sri Lanka 163 to win with two days remaining at Chittagong. Moving past 1000 international wickets in the process, Muralitharan spun a web around the Bangladesh middle order and the home side slipped further towards defeat. In response, Michael Vandort and Upul Tharanga have taken Sri Lanka to 25 for no loss at stumps, according to webside cricinfo.
Sri Lanka took a potentially decisive grip on the first Test at Chittagong during the third afternoon as Bangladesh lost four wickets for 22, slumping to 69 for 4 in their second innings. However, Khaled Mashud and Shariar Nafees refused to throw in the towel during a tenacious stand fifth-wicket stand that left Bangladesh still in the game on 104 for 4 at the tea interval.
Javed Omar (31) and Nafees Iqbal (6) had frustrated Sri Lanka before and after the lunch break, wiping out Sri Lanka's slender 19-run advantage and then extending their partnership to 47. Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka's new captain, may just have been starting to fret before Dilhara Fernando, somewhat fortuitously, broke through as Iqbal chased a wide delivery.
It was Iqbal's second soft dismissal of the match and it dragged Sri Lanka back into a contest they were just starting to lose control off. The runs started to dry up and Fernando finally snared Omar, who had been batting solidly, with a full delivery that nipped back. Suddenly, Bangladesh were wobbling on 56 for 2.
Jayawardene tightened the net, launching onto the offensive with his spin twins, Muttiah Muralitharan and Malinga Bandara, with fielders crowded around the bat. Both bowlers spun the ball sharply but slowly off a placid pitch. However, Bandara's nagging accuracy finally paid off as he defeated Habibul Bashar (12) in the air and won an lbw decision.
Bashar would have not unstrapped his pads in the dressing before hearing Sri Lanka's yelps of joy at the dismissal of Mohammad Ashraful, the first innings centurion and Bangladesh's most dangerous player. Ashraful (one) was left shocked and disbelieving as Upul Tharanga, crouched low at short leg, clasped a brilliant reflex catch off a sweetly time tuck onto the leg-side.
It seemed then, with Bangladesh on 69 for 4, that the innings might be about to unravel. Several hundred spectators thought so anyway as they rushed out of the stadium after Ashraful's fall. But Mashud and Nafees started a gutsy fightback and were able to resist until the tea interval, braving Kumar Sangakkara's barbed jibes from behind the stumps and also some probing bowling, from the slow men and also Lasith Malinga who produced a hostile burst.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were unable to eke out a substantial lead as Shahadat Hossain clawed Bangladesh right back into the game, mopping up the visitors' tail with a succession of bumpers that were softly swatted to midwicket, finishing with 4 for 83 from 22 overs.
Sri Lanka's problems began with a tortoise-like start to the day. With Thilan Samaraweera (58) and Bandara (19 not out) determined to play themselves in carefully, the innings stagnated during the first 20 minutes, allowing the Bangladesh bowlers to settle in. Eventually, Samaraweera eyed a scoring opportunity but his execution was poor as he miscued a hook to midwicket. He, though, will still be counting himself unlucky as Omar leaped acrobatically to claim a wonderful diving catch.