Captain Mahmudullah led from the front with his first Test century in more than eight years as Bangladesh set Zimbabwe an improbable target of 443 runs to win the second and final Test in Dhaka on Wednesday.
The Tigers reduced the visitors to 76-2 at stumps on the fourth day after Mahmudullah’s unbeaten 101 helped the home side declare the second innings on 224-6 at the tea interval.
Mehidy Hasan broke a 68-run opening stand by removing Hamilton Masakadza for 25 after he dropped the Zimbabwe captain on five off debutant seamer Khaled Ahmed.
Mehidy also dropped Brian Chari when the batsman was yet to score but fellow spinner Taijul Islam dismissed the opener for 43 soon after Bangladesh got their first breakthrough.
Brendon Taylor and Sean Williams remained at the crease on four and two respectively, facing a monumental task to win or avoid a loss as Zimbabwe still trailed the hosts by 367 runs.
Zimbabwe lead the two-match series 1-0 after victory in Sylhet – their first away test win in 17 years – are looking for at least a draw in the game that would give them their first Test series win in seven years.
Mahmudullah, whose only other test ton came against New Zealand in 2010, lifted Bangladesh from a precarious 25-4 after the Zimbabwe seamers rattled the home side early on day four.
The right-hander shared an 118-run stand for the sixth wicket with debutant Mohammad Mithun, who scored 67.
Zimbabwe had successes against Bangladesh early in their second innings, after the hosts decided against enforcing the follow-on despite their 218-run first innings lead.
Kyle Jarvis removed openers Imrul Kayes and Liton Das in the space of three balls in the fifth over for three and six runs respectively.
First-innings centurion Mominul Haque quickly followed the openers, edging Donald Tiripano to wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva for one in the next over.
The slump continued as Mushfiqur Rahim, who scored a Bangladesh record 219 in the first innings, pulled a straight catch to square leg fielder Mavuta to depart for just seven.
But Mithun and Mahmudullah stemmed the bleeding, slowly building their partnership.
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