GALLE, Sri Lanka Mohammad Ashraful made the highest score by a Bangladesh batsman in test cricket when he scored a magnificent unbeaten 189 on the third day of the first test against Sri Lanka on Sunday.
Together with captain Mushfiqur Rahim, who also made a career best score of 152 not out, Ashraful figured in an all-time record partnership for his country of 261 as Bangladesh reached 438 for four replying to Sri Lanka's first innings of 570 for four declared.
Bangladesh trail Sri Lanka by 132 runs with two days left.
"This is the first time I spent so much time in the nineties and I felt like batting all day," Ashraful told reporters.
"I made 35 runs in the second session today but it wasn't boring. I told myself that this is test cricket. I enjoyed every moment of it. I am just thankful that they selected me. I am just 11 runs away, I want to be the first Bangladeshi to score a double-century."
Sri Lanka grabbed two wickets in the first session but Ashraful and Mushfiqur then batted together through the rest of the day to frustrate the home bowlers on a flat track that hardly offered any assistance.
The ball rarely beat the bat and Sri Lanka also missed a few half chances that came their way with Ashraful on 110 and 143 and Mushfiqur on 103.
Ashraful, selected for the tour only because of an injury to Shariar Nafees, went past his own previous highest score for Bangladesh - 158 not out against India at Chittagong in 2004 - and by the close had faced 398 balls and hit 20 fours and a six.
Mushfiqur provided him with excellent support, striking 18 fours and one six in his 236-ball knock.
Ashraful celebrated his return to test cricket after a 15-month absence by reaching his sixth century in the morning session, having moved on from his overnight score of 65.
It was his fifth ton against Sri Lanka and he raised his bat and punched the air in delight.
Ashraful had enjoyed a third wicket stand of 105 with overnight partner Mominul Haque before the hosts made a quick double strike.
Seamer Nuwan Kulasekara managed to find the edge of Mominul's bat and Angelo Mathews took the catch at first slip 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.
Sri Lanka coach Graham Ford said that there was a lot of cricket to be played in the test in the remaining two days.
"When we came to the ground this morning we were hoping for a better day but all credit to Bangladesh and those two batsmen particularly, they batted superbly and played Bangladesh into a pretty strong position," said Ford.
"It's up to us to break this partnership early in the morning and if we can get a couple of wickets the game can change quite quickly."
(Editing by Mark Meadows)