GALLE, March 10 (Reuters) - Mohammad Ashraful marked his return to test cricket after 15 months with a fighting century to move Bangladesh closer to avoiding the follow-on mark on the third day of the first test against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
The pint-sized right-hander batted gracefully to score his sixth test hundred and his fifth against Sri Lanka off 181 balls with 10 fours and a six.
At the lunch break he was unbeaten on 107 with Bangladesh on 224 for four wickets in reply to Sri Lanka's first innings total of 570 for four declared.
Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim was on 25 not out having built a partnership of 47 for the fifth wicket with Ashraful.
Bangladesh required another 147 runs to make Sri Lanka bat again.
Ashraful used the placid batting conditions to move from his overnight score of 65 to his century.
He raised his bat and punched the air in celebration of his first test hundred for almost five years. His last century was also against Sri Lanka at Dhaka in 2008.
Ashraful and his overnight partner Mominul Haque shared a third wicket stand of 105 before Sri Lanka made their first breakthrough of the morning with a double strike.
Seamer Nuwan Kulasekara managed to find the edge of Mominul's bat and Angelo Mathews at first slip took the catch to send him on his way for 55.
Seven runs later Mahmudullah (0) gave the charge to left-arm spinner Rangana Herath but missed to offer wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal an easy stumping. (Editing by Patrick Johnston)