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Lanka eye win despite Ashraful's defiant ton

Lanka eye win despite Ashraful's defiant ton

Murali claimed three to strengthen Lanka's winning chance.

Dhaka: Muttiah Muralitharan took three wickets to strengthen Sri Lanka's chances of winning the opening Test against Bangladesh here on Tuesday despite a fighting 70 not out by skipper Mohammad Ashraful.

Bangladesh, shot out for 178 in the first innings, put in a better performance in the second innings when they reached 254-5 at stumps on the penultimate day, chasing an unlikely 521-run target.

The highest fourth-innings total to win a Test is 418-7, by the West Indies against Australia in Antigua in 2003.

Ashraful offered stiff resistance to the Sri Lankan attack, hitting 11 fours in his eighth Test half-century -- his first since July 2007. He also completed 2,000 Test runs during his 153-ball knock.

Off-spinner Muralitharan (3-85), who bagged six wickets in the first innings, again did the maximum damage as he did not allow Bangladesh's middle-order batsmen to settle with his clever variations.

He had Junaid Siddique (37) caught by skipper Mahela Jayawardene at first slip and bowled Raqibul Hasan (24) in his four overs in the afternoon session.

Muralitharan reduced the hosts to 180-5 when he had Mehrab Hossain (23) caught by substitute Chamara Kapugedera at mid-off in the last session.

Ashraful and Shakib Al Hasan (34 not out) then denied Sri Lanka further success with a 74-run stand for the unbroken sixth wicket.

The Bangladeshi captain reached his half-century in the last session when he drove Muralitharan through the covers for a four.

Sri Lanka, resuming at 291-4, added 114 in the morning session before declaring their second innings closed at 405-6. Jayawardene top-scored with a superb 166, his 24th Test century.

The Sri Lankan captain, unbeaten on 129 on Sunday, put on 95 for the fifth wicket with Tillakaratne Dilshan (47) before being caught at first slip by Siddique off spinner Mehrab Hossain. He hit one six and 19 fours.

The second and final Test starts in Chittagong on Saturday.

first published:December 30, 2008, 17:26 IST