Cricket: Ashraful, Rahim boost Bangladesh

Mohammad Ashraful hit a superb century on comeback to boost Bangladesh's hopes of avoiding a follow-on in the opening Test against Sri Lanka on Sunday.

Ashraful, playing his first Test in more than a year, was unbeaten on 143 as the tourists reached 330-4 in their first innings at tea on the third day in reply to Sri Lanka's 570-4 declared.

Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim was unbeaten on a solid 92 at the break. He has so far put on 153 for the fifth wicket with Ashraful, the pair denying Sri Lanka success in the afternoon session with their impressive knocks.

Bangladesh, who added 195 to their overnight total of 135-2, now need 41 more runs to avoid the follow-on with six wickets in hand.

Ashraful, 65 overnight, reached his sixth Test century, and the fifth against Sri Lanka, with an aggressive shot, firmly driving unorthodox spinner Ajantha Mendis through the covers for a four in the morning.

He has so far hit one six and 15 fours in his 302-ball knock.

Rahim also played some handsome shots during his unbeaten 150-ball knock which contained 11 fours, including two in an over from paceman Nuwan Kulasekara.

Debutant Mominul Haque also impressed, scoring an 83-ball 55 with nine fours. He added 105 for the third wicket with Ashraful before being caught at first slip by skipper Angelo Mathews off Kulasekara.

The left-hander added 20 runs to his overnight score of 35.

Sri Lanka struck again when left-arm spinner Rangana Herath had Mohammad Mahmudullah stumped for no score to reduce Bangladesh to 177-4 before Ashraful and Rahim steadied the innings.