Asia Cup: Sri Lanka register comfortable five-wicket win over Bangladesh

Defending Asia Cup champions Sri Lanka began their 2023 campaign with a resounding five-wicket victory over Bangladesh, their record-setting 11th consecutive victory in ODIs. The victory was setup by an excellent bowling performance led by Matheesha Pathirana (4-32) and Maheesh Theekshana (2-19) that kept Bangladesh down to a sub-par 164 on a sluggish surface in Pallekele. Fifties from Sadeera Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka then helped the hosts scale the target with 11 overs to spare.
Bangladesh appeared to have begun the game on the front foot after winning the toss but home captain Dasun Shanaka wasn’t perturbed about having to bowl first on a familiarly slow and two-paced wicket. There was the added threat of rain that made batting under lights with a potential DLS-revised target a good proposition. His understanding of the conditions was reflected in his bowling changes, notably with the use of Theekshana with the new ball.

The off-spinner struck with just his second ball to trap debutant Tanzid Hasan LBW for a duck. Offspinner Dhananjaya de Silva, introduced into the attack in the eighth over, took only two balls more to join the wickets column by dismissing the other opener, Mohammad Naim. The batter stepped out to hit but was beaten in the air and by the drift and ended up slicing a simple catch to backward point.

Pathirana was introduced into the attack only in the 11th over but he too struck with his fourth ball, giving his side the big wicket of Shakib Al Hasan, who underedged an attempted cut shot to the ‘keeper. At 36/3, the Bangladesh innings was in need of a swift revival.

There was revival but it wasn’t swift. Shanto held one end up with risk-free cricket and Towhid Hridoy gave him company in a sedate 59-run partnership for the fourth wicket. But just when the partnership seemed like it had moved past the troubled waters, Shanaka made another bowling change that paid quick dividends. This time, the skipper brought himself on and in just his second over had Hridoy miss an attempted flick and wear a length ball on his pads. Though it appeared as if the batter had crossed the three-metre mark where DRS is no longer applicable, it wasn’t to be and the Sri Lankan captain was vindicated with ‘three reds’ on the screen.

On a slow track, Pathirana then got a pacy delivery to climb on Mushfiqur Rahim and had him caught playing an upper cut straight to third man. Mehidy Hasan Miraz was calamitously run out and Bangladesh’s innings quickly unravelled once Shanto fell to a superb carrom ball from Theekshana. The final six wickets fell for only 37 runs with Pathirana’s change of pace proving too much for Bangladesh’s tail to cope with.

Batting got significantly easier under lights but that didn’t stop Bangladesh from inducing some jitters in the home dressing room. Taskin Ahmed bowled a perfect inswinger to castle Dimuth Karunaratne and while Shoriful Islam angled a delivery across Pathum Nissanka and had him caught behind. When Kusal Mendis was cleaned up by a Shakib Al Hasan delivery for a painstaking 5 off 21 deliveries, Sri Lanka were 43/3 and in need of a partnership to put the chase back on track.

Samarawickrama and Asalanka did just that by wading through the pressure with some risk-averse accumulation of runs. Singles were plentiful and with Bangladesh looking to attack, so too was the occasional boundary. Samarawickrama cut Shakib for a four and forced the overcompensation to flick another delivery to mid-wicket for boundary. Asalanka was particularly impressive in employing the sweep shot against the Bangladeshi spinners.

The pair put on 78 runs for the fourth wicket before Samarawickrama walked right past a Mahedi Hasan delivery to be dismissed stumped for a 77-ball 54. By then, however, Sri Lanka were only 44 runs from victory and although they lost Dhananjaya de Silva cheaply, Asalanka anchored the chase and helped himself to a half-century to close out an important win in what is a tricky three-team Group B.

Brief scores: Bangladesh 164 in 42.4 overs (Najmul Hossain Shanto 89; Matheesha Pathirana 4-32, Maheesh Theekshana 2-19) lost to Sri Lanka 165/5 in 39 overs (Charith Asalanka 62*, Sadeera Samarawickrama 54; Shakib Al Hasan 2-29) by five wickets.