Bangladesh letting the momentum slip has been the theme of the year so far. In the ODI tri-series in January the Tigers shot out of the blocks with three bonus-point wins -- two over Zimbabwe and one over their current opponents Sri Lanka -- but then crashed to heavy defeats to the Lankans in the last group game and the final. A change of venue and format did not bring about a change in the hosts' wastefulness. After being 356 for two near the end of the first day of the Chittagong Test, they lost their last eight wickets for 157 runs on the flattest of tracks -- a retreat from their stated aim of winning the series 2-0 -- and had to rely upon special innings from Mominul and Liton Das in the second inning to salvage a draw.
What started in a clarity of purpose in the first two tri-series games has since devolved into a pervasive uncertainty of approach. Therefore, it was not very surprising yesterday when, after a stellar bowling effort bundled Sri Lanka out for 222 after the tourists chose to bat first, Bangladesh let the hard-won advantage slip to the point where the tourists can claim to have had the better of the first day of the second Test.
At the end of the day Bangladesh had scored 56 for the loss of four wickets in 22 overs, but those 22 overs were time enough for the Tigers to alternate between premeditated aggression and blind, nervous defence on a wicket that offered turn and bounce but was not misbehaving. They should have known better, however, as Sri Lanka opener Kusal Mendis showed in the morning exactly how to approach batting on the wicket as the right-hander, knowing that there would be one ball with his name on it eventually, was constantly on the lookout for runs and that brought an urgency to his batting that resulted in a vital 98-ball 66. The Tigers however failed to distinguish between a positive outlook and a premeditated approach.
Opener Tamim Iqbal hit the second ball of the innings from pacer Suranga Lakmal for a four down the ground, but in his eagerness to repeat the shot off the very next ball the left-hander played too early and Lakmal took a fine reflex catch to send Tamim packing. If Tamim's approach could have been described as unnecessarily aggressive, then what followed was overcompensation towards the opposite extreme.
In between, Mominul added incompetence and carelessness to the mix as his twin tons in the first Test became a distant memory because of his failure to ground his bat at the end of a run and losing his wicket. Opener Imrul Kayes and number four Mushfiqur Rahim then displayed the second approach, over-exaggerated defence that only allowed Sri Lanka to get on top of the batsmen, bring the field in and turn balls away from dead-batted defensive strokes.
In the ninth over, having twice shouldered arms to Lakmal inswingers that were perilously close to off stump, Mushfiqur kept at it till the impressive pacer found his mark and dislodged the off bail in the last ball of the over.
Imrul seemed to change tack after Mushfiqur's dismissal, hitting a couple of boundaries as Liton Das settled in. At 27 for three, Liton premeditated an attack on off-spinner Dilruwan Perera but was fortunate that the hard-hit stroke was dropped by the bowler.
Even the three boundaries Imrul hit, fine shots on their own, seemed unconvincing in the context of his ultra-defensive 55-ball 19, which ended in a tentative defence that found the inside of his pad instead of the ball, which thudded into the back pad in front of middle stump. That he reviewed the straightforward call, even though he must have known that the only thing that could save him was a non-existent inside edge, was an apt reflection of Bangladesh's muddled thinking.