By Shehan Daniel
An explosive half century from Avishka Fernando set Sri Lanka on course for a series clinching victory over Bangladesh, a result the hosts completed with seven wickets in hand at the R. Premadasa Stadium, to earn a rare home ODI series win yesterday.
Sri Lanka had lost five out of six home series since beating the West Indies in a three-match series in 2015 – the other a drawn series against Bangladesh in 2016 – but chased down a 239-run target in the second ODI that broke that streak.
Seeing Sri Lanka across the line was Angelo Mathews and Kusal Mendis, together accounting for the last 96 runs of the chase, with the former scoring his 39th ODI half century and also the winning runs with his eight boundary while Mendis was unbeaten on 41.
It was the kind of level-headed partnership that Sri Lanka needed to see out the game, on a pitch that had threatened to become more and more challenging to bat on but it didn’t prove so, though it was Fernando’s contribution at the top of the innings that deserves the most column space.
It was the 21-year old’s first international half century in Sri Lanka, and he did it in the aggressive yet in classy fashion.
He broke loose in the sixth over of the innings with a punch, drive and a pull off three consecutive deliveries, seemingly lighting a fire that only got brighter when he scored another four boundaries over the next three overs.
He topped the flurry of boundaries with a six off the bowling of Mustafizur Rahman, an almost flawless pull over the deep square leg boundary made to look a lot easier than it should be which propelled Sri Lanka to 69 off the first 10 overs.
That start meant that even though Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled by Mehedi Hasan Miraz two overs later, it could not slow Sri Lanka’s march towards victory, with Fernando adding a second six when he swept Hasan over the deep mid-wicket boundary in the 14th over.
He was even given a lifeline upon reaching 77, when a mishit was put down by Mossadek Hossain running in from deep cover but wasn’t as lucky with the next chance he offered when he skied a catch four balls later.
With the 129 runs already wiped off the target though, the young opener had put Sri Lanka in a position of strength that was difficult to squander.
The hosts lost one more wicket, when Kusal Janith Perera was caught at short cover for 30 but neither Mendis nor Mathews allowed Bangladesh back into the game, reaching the target with 32 balls to spare.
Mushfiqur Rahim was once again the thread that held the Bangladesh batting together, coming in at 39 for two and remaining unbeaten on 98 when their quota of overs was complete.
It was Rahim’s second consecutive half century, battling the surface as much as the opposition’s bowlers and defying the standard set by his fellow batsmen yesterday.
After four failed attempts to put on a tide-changing partnership to recover the innings, Rahim finally found willing support in Mehedi Hasan Miraz and together the pair put on the team’s highest stand for the innings, of 84 for the seventh-wicket.
When Hasan joined him at the crease, Rahim had scored 37 off 60 deliveries with just one boundary but the former Bangladesh Captain flourished thereafter, reaching his half century 11 balls later.
Hasan himself counter-attacked, striking six of the eight boundaries that came during that partnership, before he picked out Karunaratne at mid-off in the 46th over.
Avishka’s father hospitalised
The father of Sri Lankan opener Avishka Fernando was admitted to hospital during the second ODI against Bangladesh yesterday.
It is understood that Colin Fernando had fainted during the innings break due to high blood pressure and had been rushed to hospital.
The player confirmed that his father had been admitted to hospital and was out of danger. (SD)