Mominul, Liton save the day

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Mominul Haque’s second century of the match and a Test-saving 180-run fourth-wicket stand with Liton Das helped Bangladesh overcome their second-innings hoodoo on way to securing a draw on the fifth and last day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury stadium in Chittagong yesterday.

Mominul became the first Bangladesh batsman to score centuries in both innings of a Test match, adding yesterday’s 105 in the second innings to the mammoth 176 in the first innings. In the process he also tallied the highest total in a single Test match among Bangladesh batsmen, going past opener Tamim Iqbal’s 231 runs against Pakistan in Khulna in 2015.

Liton, on the other hand, will be disappointed after missing out on his maiden hundred by just six runs but the team management will be happy to see the batsman finally doing his talent justice.

When Mominul and Liton resumed on 81 for three and needing 119 to avoid an innings defeat, it was a nervy start to the final day for the home side after they lost the three important wickets of Imrul Kayes, Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur Rahim in the last hour of the fourth day.

Mominul was struck on his helmet off the bowling of pacer Lahiru Kumara when he tried to duck a short ball which did not bounce as much as expected and after brief medical attention the left-hander was back on his feet again.

Both Mominul and Liton looked a bit shaky resuming the final day, but they negotiated the first hour carefully and started to gain confidence on a pitch that was still a good track for batsmen.

Mominul reached his fifty as Bangladesh went to lunch on 187 for three, having scored 106 runs in the first session without losing a wicket.

However, Sri Lanka did create a few chances just after lunch but were unable to capitalise on the opportunities. Wicketkeeper Niroshan Dickwella dropped an under edge from Mominul off the bowling of Rangana Herath when the left-hander was on 71. Liton, who reached his fifty in style with a cracking cover drive off chinaman bowler Lakshan Sandakan, was also lucky on 62 as the short mid-wicket fielder dropped a tough chance.

Mominul eventually reached his century when he stretched forward to drive Sandakan through extra cover off his 154th ball but this time there was no animated celebration from the left-hander like in the first innings. It was more like a trademark Mominul celebration with a smile, the removal of his helmet and a raising of the bat towards the dressing room.

The 26-year-old was eventually dismissed when he edged Herath to slip before tea but the job of salvaging a draw was mostly done, much like he did back in 2014 with a hundred against the same opposition at the same ground.

The second of the two wickets to fall yesterday was when Liton went for glory by coming down the track to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath and mistimed an attempted six to be brilliantly caught by Dilruwan Perera running backwards towards long-off. Liton’s contribution to the draw was a fine 94 off 182 balls that included 11 fours.

The game, which was already heading towards a draw, saw no more late drama as skipper Mahmudullah Riyad remained unbeaten on 28 off 65 balls while Mosaddek Hossain faced 53 balls for his eight before Lankan skipper Dinesh Chandimal shook hands and called for an end with 17 overs remaining in the day.

The Chittagong Test will be remembered for being a run-fest as a total of 1533 runs were scored for the fall of just 24 wickets, with five centuries struck by batsman of both sides. Bangladesh, however, will be happy to have overcome the hurdle of saving a game after being in a position from which they have often panicked and crumbled to defeat in the past.

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