Galle: Former captain Mohammad Ashraful led Bangladesh's fightback on his return to international cricket by hitting an unbeaten half-century on Saturday after Sri Lanka declared on 570 for 4 on the second day of the first Test. Ashraful, his country's most capped player with 58 Tests and playing his first Test since 2011, scored 65 not out as the tourists reached 135 for 2 at Galle International Stadium by stumps. Bangladesh trail by 435 and needs a further 236 to avoid the follow-on after Lahiru Thirimanne and Dinesh Chandimal hit unbeaten maiden Test centuries for Sri Lanka.
Thirimanne reached 155 with 14 boundaries, while Chandimal made 116 with 12 fours and two sixes. Kumar Sangakkara scored 142 on the opening day to set Sri Lanka on their way. The Sri Lankans batted aggressively for 71 minutes after lunch in which Chandimal and Thirimanne smashed 109 runs off 17 overs.
Bangladesh's fielding was awful, letting off Chandimal on three occasions, twice before he reached double figures. Chandimal was dropped on 5 at gully off Abul Hasan, who then put down one when the same batsman hooked Shahadat Hossain after adding four more runs. Chandimal brought up his century off 136 balls, while Thirimanne, a 23-year-old left-handed batsman, brought up his century with a lofted shot over mid-on off Elias Sunny.
The partnership was worth 203 runs, a new record for the fifth wicket in Galle and the third highest partnership at this ground for any wicket. The Sri Lankans completely dominated after captain Angelo Mathews fell in the morning after adding just two runs to his overnight score to be out for 27. Bangladesh's bowlers failed to create any pressure, delivering too many loose balls which were dispatched to the boundary with ease.
After the declaration, fast bowler Shaminda Eranga gave Sri Lanka an early breakthrough when Jahurul Islam was surprised by a sharp bouncer that hit his glove and went through to the wicketkeeper. Islam hit four boundaries in scoring 20 as Bangladesh went to tea on 23 for 1.
Ashraful added 42 for the second wicket with Anamul Haque, who was bowled by spinner Ajantha Mendis for 13 with the total on 65. Ashraful added an unbroken stand of 70 for the third wicket with debutant Mominul Haque (35 not out). The 28-year-old Ashraful, who had made a hundred on debut against Sri Lanka in 2001, played the Sri Lankan spinners well. He hit seven fours and reached his half-century off 67 balls.