- Created on Saturday, 30 March 2013 08:59
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Bangladesh scampered to a series-levelling win against Sri Lanka in the third and final ODI, in Pallekele, winning by three wickets in a rain-hit encounter. They were helped along by Nasir Hossain's composed 33 off 27 balls late in the chase, the visitors showing nerves as they neared the victory - their first in 15 completed games against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka.
Overall it was a fine occasion for the visitors, who had left-arm spinner Abdur Razzak becoming the first Bangladesh bowler to aggregate 200 ODI wickets, as he picked up a five-wicket haul that helped drag them back into the game after Sri Lanka's openers had built a fine platform. The hosts didn't build appropriately on that excellent start, ending up at 302 for 9 in their 50 overs when they looked on course for much more.
Bangladesh began their innings in an equally good manner, with Mohammad Ashraful and Anamul Haque adding 77 runs for the first wicket. But rain delayed the chase for more than two hours, with the score at 78 for 1 in 13.4 overs. As play restarted at 10.20pm local time, as per Duckworth-Lewis calculations, the visitors needed to score another 105 runs to win in the next 13.2 overs, and they did.
But things could have been different had Bangladesh wilted after Lasith Malinga's final over. The two wickets he claimed in that over all but sealed the series for the home side but Nasir charged at Thisara Perera in the next, the penultimate over. He took 14 out of the 18 runs required in that over, playing an easy square-cut and two proper slogs over midwicket to snatch back the momentum. With two runs to win off seven balls, Sohag Gazi top-edged one over wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara, before turning and giving his batting partner a hug.
Promoted up to No. 5, Nasir witnessed madness at the other end as the batsmen gave a chance to the calm Sri Lankan fielders and bowlers almost every over. But he minded his own end, ensuring he was there when the business end of the game came about.
The madness began when Jahurul tried to slog or take off for a suicidal single every other ball, and it contributed to his dismissal. He was batting well when not charging at the bowlers, but he thought it was a situation that called for a change from first to fifth gear. The same can be said about captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who was run out after Nasir had pushed the ball towards the bowler Perera. His deputy Mahmudullah was stringing together an important partnership with Nasir when he decided to play a reverse-sweep off Sachithra Senanayake when the team needed just 39 off 33 balls.
But the home side waited far too long to bring on the offspinner Senanayake after the rain break, and that probably cost them. Senanayake's angle from around the wicket gave the Bangladesh batsmen too much to think about, and there were several moments when wickets were just inches away. He took 2 for 26 from his six overs. Jeevan Mendis hasn't bowled an over in the series and given the visitors' weakness against legspinners, Mathews missed a trick there too.
It was a completely different game than the one played earlier in the afternoon under brilliant sunshine. Sri Lanka posted a formidable target with Tillakaratne Dilshan scoring his 16th ODI hundred, and second of the series. Along with Kusal Perera, he added 116 for the first wicket but the Bangladesh spinners gained some footing and it ultimately held Sri Lanka back in the final ten overs too.
Perera scored his first ODI fifty in the typical manner that everyone has been awed by so far in his short career. He went after the bowling from the third over when he hit a straight six, and then continued to pelt the pace bowlers who went for plenty in the first seven overs.
Dilshan went after the bowling in the two Powerplays but remained the anchor through most of the innings. However, he found little support at the other end.
The middle-order shuffle didn't help the hosts as none of Thisara Perera, Mathews or Mendis could contribute as they were expected to. It was left to Lahiru Thirimanne, who was pushed down the order, to bang out two sixes in his quickfire 25, which took them past the 300-run mark.
Razzak's five wickets apart, Mahmudullah and Sohag Gazi tightened things up whenever they were asked to bowl. Mahmudullah made up for his poor run of form with the bat, bowling his ten overs for 50 runs while Gazi was once again accurate during most parts of his spell. And in the end, it all added up to victory for Bangladesh.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh corresponde