PALLEKELE: Dimuth Karunaratne led Sri Lanka to 229-3 in its first innings at stumps on the third day of the first Test, still 312 runs behind Bangladesh's mammoth 541-7. There was little threat from Bangladesh seamers when the Sri Lankans started their reply but the two spinners - Taijul Islam and Mehidy Hasan - were rewarded for some tight bowling on Friday.
Karunaratne is Sri Lanka's best player of spin bowling and the captain countered the threat well, but his team needs at least two more big partnerships. Karunaratne batted for more than five hours for his 85 not out as play was extended on day three to catch up for time lost due to bad light on Thursday.
Karunaratne was given out leg before wicket to Taijul (1-56 off 20 overs) but the decision was overturned after the batsman reviewed with the ball missing by some margin. Lahiru Thirimanne (58) was cruising with some cracking strokes before he was dismissed in the final ball before tea by Hasan (1-60 off 24 overs) to make it 114-1.
Despite the excellent batting conditions, Oshada Fernando was caught down legside to Taskin Ahmed's delivery for 20. Sloppy footwork from Angelo Mathews resulted in his dismissal for 25. The experienced campaigner went on the back foot to a full delivery from Taijul that he should have played on the front foot.
The ball sneaked past the bat and crashed onto the stumps. Karunaratne and Dhananjaya de Silva (26 not out) have added 39 runs for the fourth wicket as Sri Lanka saw off some tense moments without any further damage.
Bangladesh went for some quick runs in the morning when play started with its overnight total on 474-4. Mushfiqur Rahim finished on 68 not out as the declaration came. Vishwa Fernando picked up 4-96 while Suranga Lakmal, Lahiru Kumara and Dhananjaya de Silva gained a wicket apiece.
Sri Lanka confirmed that Kumara is nursing a hamstring injury and his availability for the rest of the game will be known Saturday morning. Thirimanne felt that the game is heading for a draw. "There's not much happening on this wicket. The track is very slow. We need to apply ourselves and bat through day four ...Personally, I think this game is heading for a high-scoring draw," Thirimanne said.
Bangladesh is hoping for more than a draw. "We are definitely playing for a win," Taijul said.