Mohammad Ashraful was undoubtedly one of the most talented cricketers to have emerged from Bangladesh but remained an enigma as he never quite became the player he could've been. A very fine stroke maker, Ashraful was one of the prettiest batters to watch. On September 8, 2001, 20 years from today, a 16-year-old Ashraful created history by becoming the youngest ever player to score a century in Tests. The record still stands.
It was Mohammad Ashraful's first-ever outing in the longest format. The match held at the Singhalese Sporting Club (SSC) in Colombo was a part of the Asian Test Championship. Batting first, Bangladesh had no answer to the mystery of the legendary Muttiah Muralitharan as he ran through the batting line-up. Bangladesh were bundled out for a mere 90.
Ashraful, the debutant, top-scored with 26 in the first innings and surprisingly he played Muralitharan pretty comfortably.
Sri Lanka piled up 555 for five before declaring their innings which meant an innings victory for them was just a matter of time.
Ashraful walked out to bat in the second innings when Bangladesh were in trouble at 81 for four. It never seemed he was a teenager who celebrated his 17th birthday a couple of months earlier. His batting particularly against Muralitharan was nothing short of extraordinary.
In an interview last year, he revealed how he scored freely of Muralitharan. "Javed Miandad came to Bangladesh as a batting consultant before the commencement of the Asian Test Championship. He advised us to learn to play against the spin. Generally, coaches teach us to play more with the spin and forbid us to play against it. But Miandad told us that if we could play through the cover and point region against someone like Muralitharan, we would be able to score a lot of runs. Muralitharan used to operate with two slips, a silly point and a short leg. There were four close-in fielders and therefore the cover and point region would be wide open. So I followed his advice and I ended up scoring a hundred," said Ashraful.
Ashraful scored 114 off 212 balls with the help of 16 boundaries. He became the youngest centurion in the history of Test cricket (17 years 61 days), breaking Pakistan's Mushtaq Mohammad's record. According to his passport though, Ashraful hadn't turned 17 by then.
Muralitharan was named the player of the match for his heroics with the ball but he was so impressed with Ashraful that he gave him the cheque.