The first test match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is heading for a high-scoring draw after the hosts finished on 512 for three in reply to Bangladesh’s 541 all out on day four on Saturday.
Skipper Dimuth Karunaratne posted a maiden double hundred and was well backed up by Dhananjaya de Silva, who was unbeaten on 154 as play was called off early on due to bad light. Play will resume early Sunday after 22 overs were not bowled on day four.
Karunaratne and De Silva were involved in a 322-run partnership for the fourth wicket on a wicketless day dominated by the Sri Lankans.
Sri Lanka began the day trailing Bangladesh by 312 runs and by stumps they had reduced the lead to just 29 runs.
Karunaratne has batted through the Sri Lankan innings with his marathon lasting 11 hours. He has been on the field on all four days now — a total of 1,443 minutes.
Karunaratne, who turned 33 on the first day of the match, was slow off the blocks and survived some nervous moments. When he was on 98, Bangladesh reviewed after a leg before wicket appeal was turned down. Soon he reached three figures by flicking Taskin Ahmed to mid-wicket for two. It was his 11th test hundred.
The left-hander was in full flow after the milestone, coming down the track and lofting the spinners and at one point he even reverse paddled Taijul Islam to the vacant third man region for four.
De Silva, meanwhile, was hardly troubled as he hit some cracking shots. With good use of feet against spin, he didn’t allow Taijul or off-spinner Mehidy Hasan to settle down and Bangladesh failed to stop the boundaries.
After lunch, Sri Lanka went past the follow on score of 341 and cut loose from there.
De Silva went on to compile his seventh test hundred and was unbeaten on 154, having batted for over six hours and facing 278 balls with 20 fours.
The thick grass cover on the pitch at the start was misleading and although both teams packed their sides with seamers, eventually it was up to the spin bowlers to do the containing job. Despite the grass cover, there was hardly any bounce on the wicket and it turned out to be a batting paradise.
After four days, just 10 wickets have fallen in the game and the pitch has come under the microscope.
“The margin of error is very small for bowlers,” Bangladesh seamer Taskin Ahmed said. “We are trying to find out ways to bowl better on such wickets. We have to accept the conditions, weather and wicket. It is not in our control. We can't do much when there's no help from the wicket. I am instead more focused on the process, trying to bowl consistently according to the field.”
Sri Lanka coach Mickey Arthur applauded the efforts of his batsmen.
“Dimuth is a little bit fatigued, but it’s a nice fatigue," Arthur said. "He’ll be stiff in the morning, but he can resume tomorrow and who knows where he gets to. The initial goal this morning was to have parity by the end of play today. We’re in a really good position.
“We scored at a good rate,” he continued. “The partnership was good this morning. They absorbed the new ball spells well, and then scored quite freely. They've run well between the wickets and I've loved the intensity.”