Andrew Fidel Fernando
Test matches (2): Sri Lanka 1, Bangladesh 0
One-day internationals (3): Sri Lanka 1, Bangladesh 1
Twenty20 international (1): Sri Lanka 1, Bangladesh 0
Bangladesh's tour of Sri Lanka brought together two teams at different stages of their development, and some unexpected results showed how much closer they had grown. The series marked a fresh beginning for Sri Lanka, with new captains - Angelo Mathews had succeeded Mahela Jayawardene, while Dinesh Chandimal took over for the Twenty20 game - and a squad swimming with youthful talent. But Bangladesh's steady improvement ensured the fresh start was less triumphant than the Sri Lankans had hoped for.
The tour was preceded by a whirlwind off-field conflict that threatened to deprive it of meaning. As Bangladesh prepared for a warm-up match in Matara, Sri Lanka Cricket suspended 23 top players, including both captains, after they refused to sign new contracts because of a clause removing their right to a quarter of SLC's earnings from ICC events. A settlement was reached a day later, after a meeting organised by chief selector Sanath Jayasuriya. But the episode turned public opinion against the players, who were perceived as pampered and arrogant; Sri Lanka's modest returns were readily seen in that unflattering light.
Bangladesh's achievements - to draw a Test and win a one-day international in Sri Lanka for the first time - were all the more impressive given the absence of all-round talisman Shakib Al Hasan and limited-overs spearhead Mashrafe bin Mortaza, both injured. Opening batsman Tamim Iqbal did come, but missed those two matches: he was ruled out of the First Test with a sore wrist, then departed after fracturing a thumb - and hitting a hundred - in the first one-dayer.
Instead, the supporting cast made the best of the limelight, and were led superbly by captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who hit Bangladesh's first Test double hundred, at Galle, after Mohammad Ashraful had fallen just short. This was the latest comeback of Ashraful's career since his century as a teenage debutant; he had been recalled, after four vexingly lean years, only after Shahriar Nafees cut his hand while shaving his bat with a sharp blade. Three 21-year-olds also displayed their promise. Off-spinner Sohag Gazi was Bangladesh's best bowler in the Tests, in his second international series, and batsman Nasir Hossain not only showed a sound defence and steady temperament while making a hundred in Galle, but provided rapid finishes under pressure in two one-day innings. Left-hander Mominul Haque was less eye-catching in the shorter formats, but two fluent Test fifties, including one in his debut innings, made plain his potential.
Sri Lanka's selectors had approached the tour with the intention of blooding young talent to prepare for the departure of Jayawardene (who sat out this series with a broken finger), Tillekeratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara and Rangana Herath, who were all over 35 by its end. That plan met with mixed success. Wicketkeeper-batsman Chandimal, suddenly saddled with the 20-over captaincy five months after he had been unable to get a game at the World Twenty20, was the best of the new generation, hitting two Test hundreds and keeping wicket immaculately in place of the discarded Prasanna Jayawardene; Lahiru Thirimanne looked increasingly at ease.
But for all the talk of new faces, it was old-timers who shone most brightly. Sangakkara and Dilshan were unstoppable, each hitting three hundreds and two fifties in five games (they were rested for the Twenty20 match). And Herath proved again that he was Sri Lanka's most valuable Test asset. He bowled the side to only their fifth Test victory in the post-Muralitharan era; and for the fourth time, Herath had been a match-winner.
Match reports for
Tour Match: Sri Lanka Development Emerging Team v Bangladeshis at Matara, Mar 3-5, 2013