Kandy seemed like a batting paradise in the first match of the Walton Test series. A dull draw was good enough for Bangladesh to finally secure some WTC points after 5 heavy defeats in a row.
The hopes were high for the second and final Test after Bangladesh head coach Russel Domingo said he doesn't want his team to be satisfied with only a draw, they must go out to win matches. The confidence was visible among the players as well.
But the Tigers returned to their old form as they suffered a heavy 209-run defeat in the final Test courtesy of a 22-year old debutant Praveen Jayawickrama who entered the record books with a match figure of 11 for 178. He picked up 6 and 5 wickets respectively in the two innings.
Jayawickrama became the first Sri Lankan bowler to bag 10 or more wickets in his debut match and only the 16th player overall in Test history. This is also the best by a left-arm spinner on debut.
"He does the simple things well. He pitches the ball in the right spot. That's something we saw from Rangana Herath as well. He makes the batsman play and gives the ball a chance to do something. When you play at this level, you have to have that consistency in line and length. That was his secret," skipper Karunaratne praised the record-breaker.
Bangladesh needed to chase a near-impossible 437 runs with roughly 150 overs left to play in the fourth innings to win the match.
They already lost 5 wickets at the end of the fourth day scoring just 177 runs. All the top-order batters had a start but failed to continue and make it big. Mushfiqur Rahim was the top scorer for Bangladesh with 40 runs to his name.
The visitors managed to bat just over an hour on the fifth day, added 50 more runs before bundling out for 227. Mehidy Hasan Miraz tried to survive with the tail-enders as his overnight partner Liton Das lasted just 14 balls in the morning. Miraz bagged 39 runs before departing.
The stage, however, was set earlier by Sri Lanka batters in the first innings of the match. Winning the toss, the hosts put up a mammoth score in their first innings. They declared at 493 for 7 as their openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne picked up a hundred each.
Kandy pitch continued to behave like a typical batting wicket until Bangladesh came on to bat on the third day. Spinners started getting extra spin and bounce off the pitch while there were no signs of those whatsoever in the first two days when Sri Lanka batted.
Bangladesh thus struggled in the first innings and were bundled out for 251. Sri Lanka didn't enforce the follow-on and came on to bat to ensure the match doesn't go away from their hands.
The toss proved to be vital in the end. Bangladesh skipper admitted in the post-match presentation that they lost the game 50% at the toss.
"I think the most important thing in this Test match was the toss, in my view. First two days there wasn't anything for the bowlers. Almost 50% of the Test match was decided by the toss. We lost this Test in the first innings when we were bowled out for 250," a disappointed Mominul said.
Praveen Jayawickrama was predictably adjudged the player of the match for his fairytale debut. Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne was adjudged the player of the series. He scored 428 runs from the three innings he batted at an average of 142.66.
There were a few positives despite the series defeat.
Taskin's renascence caught the attention of the cricket fraternity the most. He played Test cricket after 4 long years of fighting against injuries, and he showed that he is here to stay. He bowled 34.2 overs in the first innings and picked up 4 wickets, a rare occasion for Bangladeshi fast bowlers in Test cricket.
Bangladesh team will now fly back home and start preparing for the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka which is scheduled to start later this month. The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) have already announced a 23-member preliminary squad for the series which will be a part of the ICC's Super League.
Sri Lanka 493/7d & 194/9d
Bangladesh 251 & 227 (target 437)
Result: Sri Lanka won by 209 runs
Player of the match: Praveen Jayawickrama
Player of the series: Dimuth Karunaratne