Ashraful guns for unlikely win
Defiant Bangladesh skipper hits half century as hosts whittle down Sri Lanka target.
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2008 13:14 GMT

Jayawardene waits for an opportunity from Al Hasan in the slips [AFP]
Skipper Mohammad Ashraful hit an unbeaten half-century as Bangladesh batted defiantly in pursuit of a massive victory target in the first Test against Sri Lanka at Mirpur.

Ashraful's eighth Test fifty guided the hosts to 254 for five at the close of the fourth day chasing an unlikely 521 to win the match.

Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan, with 34 not out, shared an unbroken 74-run stand for the sixth wicket on Tuesday to provide the resistance after Muttiah Muralitharan left them in turmoil with a triple strike.

Despite the pair's defiance, Sri Lanka remained confident of likely victory.

Tail in sights

"They will be under pressure on the fifth day because they need to get around 270 runs and we need only two wickets to expose their tail," batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan said.

"Tomorrow (Wednesday) after two overs, the new ball will be available for us so we have a very good chance to win this Test match."

The hosts lost wickets whenever they looked liked building a partnership after Tillakaratne Dilshan ran out Imrul Kayes for 13 with a direct hit from midwicket to end an opening stand of 40.

Paceman Dammika Prasad removed opener Tamim Iqbal for a confident 47 before off-spinner Muralitharan claimed Zunaed Siddique for 37 and Raqibul Hassan for 24, taking his match tally to eight wickets.

Sub pops up

Muralitharan later added Mehrab Hossain, who was caught at mid-off by substitute fielder Chamara Kapugedera for 23, to give Sri Lanka their only success in the final session that was extended by 20 minutes after a delayed start in the morning.

Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardene struck 166 before declaring the second innings at 405 for six in the morning.

Sri Lanka added 114 runs losing two wickets after resuming on 291 for four in the morning, following Monday's break due to parliamentary elections and a 20-minute delay caused by dampness on the pitch.

Jayawardene, on 129 overnight after scoring his 24th Test century, was eventually caught by Zunaed Siddique at slip off left-arm spinner Mehrab Hossain.

Dilshan (47) was out in the previous over, caught behind against left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan, after a 95-run fifth wicket partnership with his skipper.

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