Will the pitch be any different? This was the most asked question before the opening day of the second and final Test between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Kandy yesterday.
The fact that the hosts had amassed 291 for one before stumps were drawn on Day 1 only shows that the pitch has not been very different to the one that received a below-average rating by match referee, leading to ICC levying a demerit point to the venue after the first Test.
The opening day of the Test already saw two centurions. Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne (118 off 190) notched his 12th Test ton before being the first Test scalp of young pacer Shoriful Islam, who made Test debut yesterday. The left-hander, who strung together a 209-run opening stand with Lahiru Thirimanne, was the only one to be dismissed yesterday when he under edged a Shoriful delivery in the final session of the day.
Thirimanne was the other centurion as he notched his third Test ton and remained unbeaten on 131.
Before the Lankan batters turned up the pressure on Bangladesh bowlers, the pitch, however, did behave differently in the first hour yesterday and the likes of pacers Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful were able to keep a tight leash on the hosts initially after they elected to bat.
In fact, Taskin, who had been troubling the two Lankan openers with pace and bounce, induced an edge off Karunaratne on the final delivery of the 20th over but poor fielding once again let the Tigers down. Najmul Hossain Shanto at wide slip failed to hold on to a regulation catch as the Lankan skipper breathed a sigh of relief on 28.
Barring a few close calls in the final session of the day, Sri Lanka batted with ease since this one clear chance and it seems that the hosts will bat for at least another two sessions today before putting up a mammoth total on the board.
The big challenge for the Bangladesh batsmen will be to bat long after having already spent 5-6 sessions fielding in hot and humid conditions. Batting coach Jon Lewis believes that there already is a template that the Tigers could follow to succeed while batting.
"It's a bit of a mirror image of the first Test match at the moment. It seems like Sri Lanka will get a big score and we will spend at least a couple of more sessions on the field. If that's the case, it's okay as it's something that we have to deal with. The pitch still looks good at the moment and hopefully, it will still look good for a while to come. We have got to deal with the fact that they have got a score on the board," Lewis said at the post-day press conference yesterday.
"They [Sri Lanka] showed us the way to do it, they showed us the template in the first Test match and we should be in good confidence because we have some batsmen who have some good form behind them after the first Test."
However, things might get a bit tricky for Bangladesh batsmen because, unlike the pitch in the first Test which proved equally favourable for batsmen throughout the five days, the pitch of this Test might see some wear and tear that could bring spinners into the action on the last two days of the Test like a typical Sri Lankan pitch.