A dominant batting display from Bangladesh gave them early honours in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Pallekele, as they ended the first day on 302 for 2.
22-year-old Najmul Hossain Shanto struck an unbeaten maiden century, with half-centuries from Tamim Iqbal and Mominul Haque frustrating the hosts who went into the Test with a pace-heavy attack.
On a pitch that had some grass cover, and Mominul’s decision to bat first proved to be a masterstroke as Iqbal and Shanto defied saw off the new ball before showing some aggression by unleashing a flurry of boundaries after the dismissal of Saif Hassan in the second over.
The former raced to a 52-ball half-century while the latter cashed in on loose deliveries to put the bowlers under pressure.
The pacers failed to hit the right lengths for the hosts in the second over and provided too many scoring opportunities for the batsmen which made Karunaratne rotate his bowlers in short spells.
With two left-handers in the middle, Dhananjaya de Silva was preferred as the first-choice spinner over Wanindu Hasaranga and the off-spinner nearly produced a wicket at the stroke of lunch, only for Dickwella to shell a sharp chance to Shanto on 28; he never looked back thereafter.
Things were no different come the second session for Sri Lanka. 35 runs from the first 8 overs after lunch helped Bangladesh make a steady progress but Tamim’s over-attacking mindset led to his downfall when he nicked a back-of-a-length delivery from Vishwa Fernando to slips and threw away a century by just 10 runs. It also brought to an end 144-run stand between Tamim and Shanto. Bangladesh skipper Mominul, who walked in at number 4, wasted no time in piling on the runs and joined hands with the 22-year old to deny Sri Lanka from making any inroads.
The surface sprung into life in the final session and the second new ball came as a shot in the arm for the hosts’ bowlers as they were more disciplined in terms of their lines and lengths. Both batsmen had some nervous moments but Shanto overcame the jitters and displayed tremendous grit and patience to reach his maiden Test hundred. Mominul too played his part in the partnership, notched up his fifty as they forged an unbeaten 150-run alliance for the third wicket to put their team in the ascendancy at stumps on Day 1. Sri Lanka’s bowlers toiled hard relentlessly but unfortunately didn’t find much assistance from the pitch. Vishwa Fernando bowled his heart out and was rightly the pick of the bowlers, having snapped up both the wickets.