Rampant Murali stuns Tigers…. with the bat!

Free Hit Contributor – Dilan Gunasekara

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In 2008, Sri Lanka toured Bangladesh for a two-match Test series followed by a tri-nation series, which also featured Zimbabwe.

Bangladesh exploited their home conditions expertly and qualified for the tri nation final against Sri Lanka. In the final, Mahela Jayawardene, the Lankan skipper won an all-important toss and, without hesitation, invited Tigers to take first lease of the wicket on a foggy morning.

In the second ball of the match, Upul Tharanga shelled an easy catch at slip off Tamim Iqbal and conceded a boundary to things get going in the Bangladesh innings. In the third over, Kumar Sangakkara took a one-handed screamer to send the other opening batsman, Junaid Siddique packing for just a single, giving Sri Lanka the much-needed breakthrough. Kulasekara’s inswing breached the indecisive defense of No. 3 batter Mushfiqur Rahim before Tamim Iqbal and Mohammed Ashraful showed some resilience, looking to utilize bad balls to score runs on a seamer friendly morning.

However, in the twelfth over, Farveez Maharoof netted the big wicket of Ashraful and in the 14th Tamim was brilliantly pouched by keeper Sangakkara. Shakib Al Hasan followed soon after, leaving the hosts 5 down with not much on the board.

Raqibul Hasan and Mahmudullah put together a 44-run partnership for the sixth wicket before spin wizard, Muttiah Muralitharan ripped a doosra past Mahmudullah’s defenses to end a threatening partnership. Mahmudullah scored a valuable 26 runs off 36 balls with 2 boundaries and one half a dozen.

New batter Naeem Islam and Raqibul then put the wind back in the Bangladeshi sails, adding 53 runs for the seventh wicket; the best partnership of the innings. Naeem’s stubborn resistance finally came to an end as he chipped the ball tamely to mid-off, giving Ajantha Mendis his 1st wicket of the innings; he and Murali quickly polished off the tail, bowling out the hosts for 152.

Raqibul did his level best to inject much needed impetus to the depleted Tiger innings and ended as the top scorer with a patient 43 runs, which included only one boundary.

With the likes of Sanath Jayasuriya, Upul Tharanga, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara in the team, the Lions thought the pursuit of 152 runs in 50 overs, was going to be a walk in a park for them. But Bangladesh bowlers had other ideas.

In the very first ball of the chase, a miscommunication between Jayasuriya and Tharanga saw the Matara Mauler sent back to the pavilion by a Shakib direct hit. Tharanga was the next man to go when he chased a wide delivery and edged one to the keeper. Jayawardene’s horror tour continued as he guided his second delivery to Rahim behind the stumps.

Chamara Kapugedara was the next man to go when he offered a simple catch to Junaid Siddique at second slip. The experiment of sending Thilan Thushara at No. 6 did not work as the left-hander’s nervy prod resulted in another inside edge and he heard the death rattle of his stumps.

The Lions were now five wickets down for 6 runs. Lankan fans barely had time to blink! Half of the side reserved their seats in the pavilion and their individual scores were like a mobile number – 0,2,0,1,1. They also established an unwanted record, the lowest ODI score for which a side has lost five wickets. The Sri Lankan innings was in tatters and the Bangladeshis believed that they could pull off an improbable heist to register their first ever tri-nation series win.

Sangakkara was joined by former U-19 captain Jehan Mubarak at the center and the pair nullified the Bangla bowling attack and floated the Lankan vessel back to calm waters by stitching a 45-run partnership for the sixth wicket. But, in the 23rd over, Lankan hopes were further dented, when Mubarak ran a suicidal run and Ashraful’s rocket throw caught him short.

Sangakkara was seeing the ball well, but in the 43rd over, when the Lankan scorecard read 114, Shakib Al Hasan timed his leap to perfection and plucked a one-handed blinder to remove Sangakkara, who made 59 runs off 133 balls.

Kulasekara came out braving the cold but went back for an early coffee, not bothering the scorers with a 2-ball duck; another nail in an already tightly secured Sri Lankan coffin. When Murali joined Maharoof, Sri Lanka needed a run a ball 39. The Lions team dugout looked ready to embrace a humiliating defeat, which would be a bitter pill to swallow. On the other hand, most Lankan spectators switched-off their televisions and went for a nap. They were at the jaws of defeat.

Maharoof & Murali calmly milked the singles before Sri Lanka took the then mandatory batting powerplay in the 45th over; they needed 35 runs to win in the last 30 balls.

Ashraful handed the ball to rookie pacer, Rubel Hossain to bowl the 46th over and that’s where things changed. The very first ball, Murali cleared his front leg and biffed it over cow corner for a boundary. The 2nd ball cleared mid-on to bring up the second consecutive boundary in the over. In the third ball Murali collected another couple of runs to retain the strike. Rubel had not learned his lesson yet and offered another short ball as the 4th delivery of the over, which was dully dispatched to the fine leg region. Rubel held his nerve and bowled a dot ball in the fifth bowl but followed it up with a long hop which ended up going over the long on boundary. Sri Lanka’s glimmer of hope was now a shaft of golden sunlight, thanks to the 20-run 46th over.

Sri Lanka needed a further 15 runs from 24 balls. Shakib conceded only a couple of runs in the 47th over as equation changed to 13 runs from 18 balls. Despite conceding 20 runs in the 46th over, Ashraful put his faith in Rubel and threw the ball to him to bowl the 48th over. In the first four deliveries Rubel conceded only two singles. But in the fifth ball Murali shuffled across and absolutely smoked one over long on with brute force to bring the equation down to single figures. The last ball of the over, Murali swung to the north and the ball travelled to the south as he top edged a hoick, which sailed over the wicket keeper’s head to bring the scores level. The game ended in the next over, Maharoof hitting the winning runs.

A proper tail-ender blitzkrieg yielded 33 runs off just 16 balls for Murali, who was the destroyer- in–chief of Bangladesh’s hopes, one of those rare occasions where his own bowling was outdone by his batting.

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