'Loss to Bangladesh could scar SL cricket'
A home loss to Bangladesh will be a blemish on Sri Lankan cricket, said Dimuth Karunaratne, while his side hung precariously in the Test at the P Sara Oval.
Having lost five top-order wickets for 47 runs in the middle session, Sri Lanka are in danger of losing their first Test at home in seven matches. They are 139 runs ahead, with two wickets in hand. The lowest target successfully defended at this venue is 244 - in the last Test Sri Lanka played here, in 2015.
"We have never lost a Test to Bangladesh, and we have a good home record recently, thanks to the win over Australia," Karunaratne said. "If we lose here it could be a big scar on our cricket as well. We are at fault and we do need to own that mistake. I'm sure we'll come out firing tomorrow to save the game."
The man largely responsible for backing Sri Lanka up against the wall was Mustafizur Rahman, who claimed 3 for 24 in what may be remembered as the spell of the series - at least from a seam bowler. Sri Lanka had progressed to 143 for 1 with relative comfort before Mustafizur was brought into the attack after lunch. At the end of that seven over spell, Bangladesh had a firm grip on the match, with a wicket having fallen at the other end as well.
"Mustafizur took the game away from us," Karunaratne said. "He reverse swung the ball well. He was bowling around the wicket to right-handers and the angle he was creating was difficult for the batsmen. We knew what he was doing and we had a plan to play the ball that was coming in and leave the ball that was going away. He bowls a maximum of five overs in a spell and we should have played that out. We panicked. We didn't plan things out well. The wicket was set and maybe that gave us a false sense of security to go for runs instead of seeing off that period."
Though they scored only 214 runs in the day for the loss of eight wickets, Karunaratne also said the pitch held no major terrors. He had himself made 126 on it, and Sri Lanka's ninth-wicket pair of Suranga Lakmal and Dilruwan Perera put on 30 in the span of 52 deliveries towards the end of play.
"A batsman needs to have some time to get set, and that period can produce a few chances, but the way that Dilruwan and Suranga batted shows that wicket hasn't become that bad yet," he said. "The fast bowlers are having some reverse but I would say it is still a good wicket to bat on.
"We have close to 140 lead, but if we can get a lead closer to 200 it will be much better. Or else we have to take quick wickets. Their openers are the key - they've scored a lot of runs this series, and we can put them under pressure if we dismiss them early. Before that, the remaining batsmen have to remain positive and rotate the strike and see how it goes."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando