Ashraful takes the fight to Zimbabwe
Bangladesh 313 for 9 (Ashraful 98, Saleh 49, Hossain 48, Rahman 44, Streak 4-44) trail Zimbabwe 441 by 128 runs
Mohammad Ashraful: fell two runs short of a second Test century
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Mohammad Ashraful flew Bangladesh's flag with pride on the third day of the first Test at Harare. After Zimbabwe made the early running with three quick wickets, Ashraful stood firm to score 98, adding a valuable 85 with Rajin Saleh, and 97 with Mushfiqur Rahman, as Bangladesh closed at 313 for 9, 128 behind.
Heath Streak, who became the first Zimbabwean to take 200 Test wickets, gave his side an early boost when he struck in the sixth over of the day to remove Tapash Baisya. Things then got worse for Bangladesh in the following over when Habibul Bashar edged Andy Blignaut behind for a duck. They had slumped to 35 for 3 in no time, but if Streak had any thoughts of breezing through the batsmen, Ashraful and company displayed some Bangladeshi bottle just when it was required.
Saleh and Shahriar Hossain started the repair job, and after both survived a few lucky edges, Hossain, in particular, played a series of big shots. He took a liking to Sean Ervine, hitting him for seven stylish fours, mostly through the covers. It was Douglas Hondo who finally dismissed Hossain, trapped in front playing across the line to an inswinger (77 for 4).
Another wicket before lunch and Zimbabwe would have been firmly in the driving seat, but Saleh and Ashraful staged a fighting recovery. Ashraful pulled Blignaut for two successive fours through the legside and Saleh also settled into a groove, smacking Ray Price down the ground for six shortly before the lunch break.
As Saleh and Ashraful began to grow in confidence, the Zimbabwe attack began to lose their line, with Hondo and Price bowling too short. Ashraful capitalised on anything wayward and Streak was beginning to scratch his head. However, Price got his man when Saleh tried to sweep him, and was bowled round his legs (162 for 5). Saleh departed for a well-made 49, one short of what would have been a second Test half-century.
Ashraful, though, managed to notch up his fifty, and he did it in some style with a huge six over long-on off Price. Rahman, meanwhile, who was dropped early on by Price off his own bowling, was content to keep Ashraful company with the odd boundary.
Ashraful continued to look for the scoring shots, launching Price for two more sixes either side of the wicket to help his side avoid the follow-on. But just when he had a second Test hundred in his sights - his first was on his debut against Sri Lanka in September 2001 - he fell short by an agonising two runs when he chopped Streak on to his stumps playing away from his body (259 for 6).
After Ashraful departed, the tempo slowed down dramatically as the Bangladeshi resistance slowly petered out. Streak struck again with the wicket of Rahman, who also played on (265 for 7), and Khaled Mashud knicked Hondo to Taibu (278 for 8). Hondo then accounted for Mohammad Rafique, caught by Ervine at first slip (288 for 9), but Manjural Islam Rana provided a final flourish to Bangladesh's day with three fours in one Hondo over to take his side past 300.