History eludes brave Bangladesh
Mohammad Ashraful hits ton but huge fourth innings falls short of Sri Lanka total.
Last Modified: 31 Dec 2008 11:26 GMT

Joy quickly turned to pain after Ashraful's heroic knock [AFP]
Bangladesh dared to dream of the unlikeliest of victories – but reality took over as a Mohammad Ashraful century was not enough to stop Sri Lanka clinching their win.

The world's smallest Test nation had looked like they would fall to a demoralising defeat in Dhaka as the tourists set them a daunting 521-run victory target on day four.

But Wednesday's last day of play saw captain Ashraful reach his fifth Test century to set up the chance not only of a world record run-chase, but one of the most incredible victories in cricket history.

It was not to be.

Ashraful fell lbw to Chaminda Vaas after adding just one run to his total, and a result that seemed tangible was, in the end, found lacking to the tune of 108 runs as the tail failed to wag.

But with Shakib Al Hasan making 96, Mushfiqur Rahim 61 and opener Tamim Iqbal a confident 47, Bangladesh proved they had the talent and mettle to compete with the top Test nations as they were all out for 413.

Massive fourth innings

With the highest successful run chase in history just five runs more at 418, set by the West Indies against Australia in 2003, that is no mean effort by a nation seen as the whipping-boys of Test cricket.

Dreams turned quickly to dust after a 111-run partnership between Shakib and Rahim, with the last four wickets falling for just 10 runs after lunch.

Dammika Prasad ended the seventh-wicket stand when Shakib, four short of a maiden Test century, agonisingly played a short and wide delivery onto his stumps.

The score is the home side's best fourth innings total, easily surpassing the 285-5 they accumulated against Zimbabwe in 2005.

Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene said he had never felt under pressure.

"In the last couple of Test series, they were very close to a win against New Zealand and probably one against South Africa as well", he said.

"The way they played, credit should go to them. But one good thing was that we had 521 runs behind us and we knew we had to be patient, bowl good areas and create opportunities."

Elegant batting

Keeping your wicket against this man takes a bit of doing [AFP]
Ashraful had batted elegantly on Wednesday morning after resuming on 70, reaching his fourth century against Sri Lanka by driving Vaas exquisitely over long on for a boundary before falling to the same bowler.

After the fall of Shakib, Prasad forced Mashrafe Mortaza to edge a catch behind for two before Muttiah Muralitharan claimed 10 wickets in the match for a record 22nd time, bagging the scalp of Rahim as the wicketkeeper desperately tried to hold up the tail-enders.

Ashraful said the exposure of the Bangladesh tail had been fatal.

"If me and Shakib could stay at the crease until the lunch, maybe it was possible," he said.

"We did not lose heart as Mushfique (Rahim) was in very good form in the last couple of series.

"Unfortunately, I got out and Shakib also missed his century. Once he left, we gave up hope."

Early hope

Bangladesh added 119 runs in 34 overs in the morning session after starting the day on 254-5.

The hosts were dismissed for 178 runs in the first innings in response to Sri Lanka's 293.

Sri Lanka declared their second innings on 405-6 after a masterful 166 from Jayawardene.

The second and final Test starts in Chittagong on Saturday.

Al Jazeera and agencies
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