Mominul Haque, focused, fluent and scintillating, hoisted Bangladesh to an authoritative position in the Chittagong Test. Having put on a 236-run third-wicket stand with Mushfiqur Rahim, Mominul has not quite batted Sri Lanka out of the game, but the visitors will find it difficult to win from here. Though they struck twice with the second new ball, there is plenty of batting to come from Bangladesh yet, not least from Mominul himself, who was unbeaten on 175 off 203 balls at stumps.
Sri Lanka were occasionally wayward – 20-year-old Lahiru Kumara especially guilty of leaking runs in the morning – but the spinners, largely, were neutered for large periods of the day. This surface is expected to take turn later in the game, but there was little help for the finger spinners once the morning’s moisture had dried up. Herath and Dilruwan Perera bowled 44 overs between them, and gave up 198 runs for only one wicket. Left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan was the only bowler to gain appreciable turn.
Having come in just after Tamim Iqbal’s breakneck fifty had ended, Mominul was fluent from the outset, placing a sumptuous drive through the covers early in his innings, then hitting a beautiful aerial cut behind the wicket before lunch. Having skipped to 26 off 39 balls by the end of the first session, his pace quickened in the afternoon.
Though never less than assured against the quicks, it was Mominul’s progress against the spinners that was most impressive. Soon after lunch, he struck successive boundaries off Sandakan – the first a handsome lofted off drive, the second a whip over midwicket. As the middle session wore on, even Herath began to ail against Mominul, who eased him wide of mid-on to complete a half-century off 59 balls.
Though runs came at pace, at no stage did Mominul appear rushed. All through day one, he was defined by timing, placement and grace. Though occasionally helped by poor groundfielding – Kumara a particularly sloppy presence in the field – at no stage did Mominul offer a chance. He spent no more than eight balls in the nineties, hitting Sandakan for two more consecutive fours to move to triple figures off the 96th delivery he had faced. Usually an undemonstrative player, Mominul wiped tears and gestured animatedly on this occasion, having been in and out of the Test side over the past year. His hundred was the second-fastest for a Bangladesh batsman, behind Tamim’s 94-ball ton at Lord’s.
If his rapid progress in the afternoon befitted a young player proving he belonged at this level, then in the evening Mominul was measured and mature. In response to more defensive fields from Sri Lanka, Mominul settled into a diet of runs into the outfield, though the boundaries were never scarce either. Mushfiqur, who had largely played a supporting act to Mominul in the afternoon, began to assert himself in the third session as well, often favouring the offside when he ventured the more expansive strokes. His fifty came off 121 balls, but the next 42 runs were faster. By the time Lakmal had Mushfiqur caught behind with the second new ball, the Bangladesh pair had taken their side from a comfortable position to a truly commanding one.
That Liton Das was bowled shouldering arms to Lakmal’s next delivery, which jagged in off the surface, will give Sri Lanka mild satisfaction, but their day, nevertheless was dispiriting, virtually from start to finish.
Tamim had hit successive fours in the second over of the day, and that salvo did not relent, as he progressed to a 46-ball half century. His opening partner Imrul Kayes perhaps should have been out in the sixth over, however. His miscued hook off Kumara hung long in the air, but Lakmal ran a poor line towards it at the fine leg fence, and failed to even attempt the catch.
Tamim was bowled by a beautifully flighted Perera delivery that wriggled between his bat and pad. Kayes batted well with Mominul after Tamim’s departure, but failed to read a Sandakan googly that struck him on the pad. Projections showed that that ball would have passed over the stumps however; Kayes would have been reprieved had he reviewed. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)