DHAKA // The captain 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. Ashraful's eighth Test 50 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 (34 not out) shared an unbroken 74-run stand for the sixth wicket to provide the resistance after Muttiah Muralitharan left them in turmoil with a triple strike. "They will be under pressure on the fifth day because they need to get around 270 runs and we only need two wickets to expose their tail," the batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan said. "Tomorrow, 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 (13) with a direct hit from midwicket to end an opening stand of 40. The paceman Dammika Prasad removed the opener Tamim Iqbal for a confident 47 before the off-spinner Muralitharan removed Zunaed Siddique (37) and Raqibul Hassan (24), taking his match tally to eight wickets. Muralitharan later added Mehrab Hossain, who was caught at mid-off by the 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. Earlier, the Sri Lanka skipper Mahela Jayawardene struck 166 before declaring the second innings closed with the tourists on at 405 for six, to push for victory against Bangladesh.
Resuming on 291 for four after a day's break and a 20-minute delay caused by dampness on the pitch, Sri Lanka added 114 more runs for the loss of two wickets. Jayawardene, on 129 overnight after scoring his 24th test century, was caught by Zunaed Siddique off left-arm spinner Mehrab Hossain at slip when he called off the innings. Tillakaratne Dilshan (47) was out seven balls earlier, caught behind against left-arm spinner Shakib Al Hasan, after a 95-run fifth wicket partnership with his skipper.
Bangladesh scored 178 runs in the first innings in response to Sri Lanka's 293 all out. *Reuters