Sri Lanka 165 for 5 (Asalanka 62*, Samarawickrama 54, Shakib 2-29) beat Bangladesh 164 (Shanto 89, Pathirana 4-32, Theekshana 2-19) by five wickets
Asalanka, who had come into this game in a lean stretch of form, ended unbeaten on 62 off 92 deliveries, just the kind of gritty knock that was needed on a two-paced Pallekele surface and against a Bangladesh bowling outfit that gave little away.
Set a target of just 165, Sri Lanka were in a spot of bother at 43 for 3 when Asalanka joined Samarawickrama in the middle. Before that Dimuth Karanuratne had played all over a full in-ducker from Taskin Ahmed, while Kusal Mendis had been castled a Shakib Al Hasan arm ball. In between Pathum Nissanka had slashed and nicked a short, wide one from Shoriful Islam.
Early wickets are crucial when defending a low total, and Bangladesh certainly felt they were in the game at that point, but in Samarawickrama, Sri Lanka had precisely the man they wanted in such a situation.
Batting at No. 4, Samarawickrama took it upon himself to keep the scoreboard ticking. Back-to-back boundaries against Taskin, including a sumptuous cover drive, showed his intent, but the loss of wickets forced him to play more of an accumulator’s role.
Once Asalanka joined him, the pair was initially content to nudge around for singles and play out dot balls when necessary, with the scoreboard pressure non-existent. Still, if there was any pressure building up, Samarawickrama released it with a couple of fours off Shakib in the 19th over.
This was crucial, as in the absence of the injured Wanindu Hasaranga, Sri Lanka were one strike bowler short. But on this difficult surface, Sri Lanka’s bowlers stuck to good lines and lengths and never really allowed the Bangladesh batters to get on top for any significant length of time.
After Theekshana and Dhananjaya had removed openers Tanzid Hasan and Mohammed Naim cheaply, Shakib gloved Pathirana behind in the 11th over to leave Bangladesh reeling at 36 for 3.
It was at this point that Bangladesh finally looked to get a foot in the game, with Shanto and Towhid Hridoy putting on a stand of 59, but the pressure that was built up in the middle overs began to tell. Shanaka brought himself on and had an advancing Hridoy lbw, via DRS.
Mushfiqur Rahim and Shanto then added 32 for the fifth wicket, but the former fell foul of a textbook ploy – a couple of full deliveries followed by a short one – to hole out to deep third.
Once Mushfiqur departed, not a single other Bangladeshi batter was able to keep Shanto company for long as Pathirana and Theekshana ran through the lower order. Apart from Shanto, only Hridoy managed to reach 20, while only two other batters reached double digits.