Ashraful and Aftab save the day
Bangladeshis 195 (Omar 81) and 273 for 6 (Ashraful 87, Aftab 67) drew with Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI 412 (Mendis 95, de Silva 74, Kalavitigoda 59)
Half-centuries by Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed helped the Bangladeshis salvage a draw against a Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI in a three-day practice match at the Colombo Colts grounds. This was Bangladesh's only warm-up game before the first Test against Sri Lanka, which starts at the Premadasa Stadium on September 12.
Dismissed for a disappointing 195 in their first innings, the Bangladeshis scored 273 for 6 in their second innings before the match was called off after two mandatory overs. The Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI made 412 in their first innings.
However, at one stage of the morning session a draw looked quite unlikely when Bangladesh slumped from their overnight total of 31 for 1 to 92 for 4. But Ashraful and Ahmed took up the challenge and on a pitch which turned out to be a perfect batting strip, helped restore Bangladesh's pride. The pair came together 14 minutes before the lunch break and were not parted until 21 minutes before tea when Ashraful, in sight of a century, lost his cool and was stumped attempting to hit part time bowler Kandamby over the top. Ashraful showed great reserves of concentration, batting for two minutes under three hours for a well-compiled 87 off 150 balls. He hit a six and 11 fours.
With the 19-year-old Ahmed, who made a well-struck 67, Ashraful added 123 for the fifth wicket in 108 minutes. Ahmed, who reached his half-century in grand style with a pulled six over midwicket, also hit seven fours in his 123-ball knock. Thilan Samaraweera, the SLC Development XI captain, tried as many as eight bowlers to try and dislodge the pair, and although Ahmed was dismissed soon after tea, Tushar Imran and Khaled Mashud, the former captain and wicket-keeper, batted out time, occupying the crease for 52 minutes to frustrate the local team's effort of pulling off a victory.
Ashraful said after the match that he was pleased to get runs after a lean trot in the one-day series. "Even though we were 92 for 4 I was confident that as long as I was at the wicket we could still draw the match. Although I don't put pressure on myself when I go out to bat, I know that the team expects a lot from me. I thought to myself if I can get runs in England, why not here. After all I scored my maiden Test century in Sri Lanka." It was at the SSC grounds four years ago that Ashraful, then only 17, had scored a century on Test debut, in the process becoming the youngest to achieve the feat in the history of the game.
Habibul Bashar, the Bangladesh captain, said it was encouraging that his side scored runs in tough conditions. "It was good to see the guys respond very well and bat under pressure especially when things got tough. We need some runs from the top order. What I want from them is not 30s, 40s and 50s but big centuries."