Sri Lanka’s bowlers seized the Test by the collar on the third morning, removing four top-order wickets for 80 runs, as Mushfiqur Rahim alone summoned the wherewithal to defy them. Seniors Rangana Herath and Suranga Lakmal claimed a wicket apiece, as did youthful wildcards Lakshan Sandakan and Lahiru Kumara. The hosts might have been into the Bangladesh tail had a chance off the bowling of Sandakan been held by slip, in the penultimate over of the session.
As it stood, Mehedi Hasan – the benefactor of that drop – accompanied Mushfiqur, whose 22 runs took 84 balls. Bangladesh are 213 for 6 – still 281 runs adrift of Sri Lanka’s first-innings 494. Shakib Al Hasan was the most positive of the visiting batsmen, hitting a six and a four in his 19-ball 23, but it was positivity, in part, that also paved his downfall.
It was the decision to field five frontline bowlers at Galle that lent Sri Lanka the luxury of playing Sandakan and Kumara, who produced impactful spells to help rattle Bangladesh. Sandakan made for especially lively viewing: he ripped balls all over the pitch, some whizzing down the legside, others careening almost off the surface, but plenty of deliveries also causing batsmen discomfort as they strove to discern the degree and direction of the turn. He could have had Shakib out on his second over of the day, when he induced a thick edge that flicked the wicketkeeper’s glove, and as a result, failed to carry to slip. He removed the same batsman towards the end of his hour-long first spell, when Shakib was caught behind attempting to flick a ball that was heading down leg. Perhaps you could say that was a lucky dismissal, but so often did Sandakan beat the bat, maybe he was unfortunate not to have had a wicket already.
Kumara had been sloppy in the field, twice letting balls slip through his fingers at mid-off, before a grumpy Rangana Herath removed him from that position. He was more diligent with the ball, however, delivering a maiden to Mushfiqur Rahim to begin his spell after the drinks break, then sending Mahmudullah’s off stump on a jaunt with a straight ball from wide of the crease.
Lakmal and Herath’s wickets were each the result of loose stroke-making from Bangladesh. Soumya Sarkar swatted a Lakmal ball off his hips early in the day, but made no effort to keep a bouncer down, and soon found he had hit it straight to Kumara at fine leg. Liton Das later footlessly poked at a mildly-spun Rangana Herath ball, and sent an edge to Gunaratne at slip.
Gunaratne, though, would spill the tougher of the two chances that came his way in the session – when he parried Mehedi’s outside edge over his head.