Bangladesh have lost a third successive Tri Series final as they stumbled in pursuit of 222 against Sri Lanka in Dhaka. The absence of Shakib al Hasan, who injured his hand in the field, and early wickets when their chase got underway combined to see them come up 72 runs short. A fighting effort from Mahmudullah seemed to be keeping the hosts in the contest before a hat-trick spread over two overs from Shehan Madushanka on his debut ended the contest.
The chase got off slowly and was hampered by the early loss of Tamim Iqbal. If anyone was going to break the back of this pursuit it was the explosive opener, but he got frustrated by his inability to keep the scoreboard moving and played a forced pull shot that saw him caught off a top edge at mid-wicket.
It goes worse when the other Bangladesh opener, Mohammad Muthin, was run out in the ninth over with the score on just 17. And when Sabbir Rahman was out in the next over to an over ambitious pull shot off Dushmantha Chameera they slumped to 22/3 and the start became a disastrous one.
Mahmadullah fought back with a patient 76 (92) but he had very little support and wickets continued to fall around him including a second run out of the innings that accounted for Mohammad Saifuddin.
The final three wickets fell in three balls from Madushanka who finished with figures of 3/23 to seal a famous win for a Sri Lankan team that has had a difficult 12 months in white-ball cricket.
The Sri Lankan innings was a gritty affair, with a pitch that was worn and continuing to wear making run-scoring difficult. The early wicket of Danushka Gunathilaka put them on the back foot early, but when Kusal Mendis came to the crease he gave the innings a real injection of pace. His nine-ball innings was an eventful one as he smashed three sixes and two fours on his way to 28.
With Mendis gone it was back to regulation nudging and nurdling from the Sri Lankans as they looked consolidate. A sedate stand of 71 between Upal Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella took their team to 113/3 in the 24th over. It was the wicket of Dickwella that broke the stand when he played a half-hearted shot at a ball from Saifuddin and he was caught at point for 42 (57).
Tharanga was keen to play the anchor role and his 56 runs took him 99 balls. He batted through to the 36th over before he was completely deceived by a slower ball from Mustafizur Rahman.
With the rest of the top order gone the pressure was on Dinesh Chandimal to get his team up to a challenging total, but he struggled for timing on this sluggish surface. His 45 came from 72 balls and included just one boundary. In the end that it was more than enough. Sri Lanka sneaked to 221 thanks to some late order blows from Akila Dananjaya who made 17 from 16 deliveries.
Some fantastic bowling from Mustafizur and Rubel Hossain, who claimed six wickets between them, kept Sri Lanka to a total that they would have been hopeful of chasing, it was just that their batsmen couldn’t back up their efforts.
"It was a great occasion to prove ourselves and a great series win," Danushka Gunathilaka said at the end of the match. "We thought 220 would be a good score on this wicket which we managed to get. We knew our bowling attack is good. The ball didn't come on properly. Their fast bowlers and ours produced a lot of variations. Madushanka was surprised when the team was announced and this was a dream start to his international career. We train hard back home, so we really needed to win a series. We didn't do well in the last 6-7 months, so we badly needed to win the series."
"It was very difficult to score", said the Player of the Match, Upal Tharanga. "According to the wicket and according to the plan, we batted really well. It was very difficult for even the best batsmen to score. But Dickwella batted very well and gave us momentum. We knew we'd got a decent score and the first 10 overs would be crucial. Dushmantha bowled very well and the lines and lengths were very good."