Zimbabwe – 352-6 in 90 overs (Sean Williams 107, Sikandar Raza 72, Brendan Taylor 62; Suranga Lakmal 2/31, Dhananjaya de Silva 2/67, Lahiru Kumara 1/46)
Day 1 – Stumps
A superb fifth-wicket partnership of 159 by captain Sean Williams and Sikandar Raza built on a solid start by Zimbabwe in the second Test against Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club today, taking the home side to 352 for six wickets by the close of play.
Williams made 107 and Raza 72, and the only complaint that could be made about their batting was that they did give their wickets away at a point when they had the Sri Lanka bowlers on toast.
On a hot sunny day Zimbabwe again won the toss and decided to bat on a flat-looking pitch with a little green visible on it.
Zimbabwe made two changes in their side, replacing the injured Kyle Jarvis and the left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu with the pace bowler Carl Mumba and leg-spinning all-rounder Tino Mutombodzi, the latter making his Test début at the age of 29.
Kevin Kasuza was passed fit to play after his head injury in the first Test, so his concussion substitute Brian Mudzinganyama was not required again.
Sri Lanka replaced their pace bowler Kasun Rajitha with a left-armer in Vishwa Fernando.
Suranga Lakmal began the match with a maiden over to Prince Masvaure, and then Fernando did the same to Kasuza.
Zimbabwe did not score their first run until the 20th ball of the innings, when Kasuza squeezed down on a yorker from Fernando and the batsmen ran a single to fine leg.
It took another 15 balls for any more runs to come, when Masvaure dabbed the 21st ball he faced to square third man for two.
It was a combination of very cautious batting against good bowling and fielding that caused such a slow start to the innings.
After 10 overs only six runs were on the board, only one of which came off Lakmal’s first five overs.
Then came the first boundary, as Masvaure drove the next ball, from Fernando who had changed ends, through the covers towards the long boundary on the mound side of the ground, and it just reached the rope.
He followed it up with a similar stroke for three off the next delivery, so off two balls Zimbabwe had more than doubled their score to 13.
The partnership finally came to an end after 14 overs, as Masvaure flashed at a ball from Lahiru Kumara that moved away from him outside the off stump, and was caught at the wicket for nine, scored off 44 balls; 21 for one.
Lasith Embuldeniya now came on to bowl to Kasuza, who hit his second ball over the bowler’s head for four, and with Craig Ervine getting off the mark with a four wide of mid-off, the left-arm spinner’s first over cost nine runs.
The Zimbabweans seemed to have made a plan to attack Embuldeniya, as Ervine drove him for six over long-on in his next over.
But for Ervine it was a short and sweet innings, as Dhananjaya de Silva came on to bowl the next over and had him caught at short leg off bat and pad for 12; 49 for two.
Brendan Taylor came in and almost immediately he also drove Embuldeniya for six.
Taylor certainly seemed ready to burn his candle at both ends, as he played some dazzling attacking strokes against the spinners, and he overtook Kasuza on 29 with two successive fours off Embuldeniya.
He played the spinners brilliantly, driving, cutting and sweeping with both orthodox and reverse strokes, which often seemed almost too daring to succeed for long.
Despite their slow start, Zimbabwe had moved to 96 for two off 30 overs at lunch, with Kasuza on 33 and Taylor having shot to 41 off 35 deliveries, of their unbroken partnership of 47.
After lunch, however, Sri Lanka returned to Lakmal, to see what Taylor could make of him.
Taylor had a look at four balls before driving the next back over Lakmal’s head for four.
Embuldeniya was bowling at the other end, and Taylor swept him for two powerful fours to bring up his fifty off 46 balls.
Kasuza’s innings came to a close at 38, unwisely shouldering arms to a superb ball from Lakmal that cut in sharply and hit the top of his off stump; 114 for three.
Embuldeniya again suffered when Williams came in to bat, the left-hander soon lofting him over long-on for six.
Taylor’s dazzling but at times dangerous innings came to an end at 62 off the same number of balls, as Lakmal’s sharp off-cutter took another wicket, the ball moving in and trapping him lbw.
He had hit 10 fours and a six, and Zimbabwe were now rather unsteady on 133 for four.
Williams and Raza now became a little pinned down by the fine bowling of Lakmal, both trying to take charge against him but finding him too good to do so.
They found some respite when Lakmal was rested, and Williams decided to play the Taylor role, not quite as spectacularly as his predecessor, but also scoring at about a run a ball.
Raza played more of a stabilising role, more in keeping with the requirements of Test cricket.
Williams slowed down notably when he reached 46 and it took him a while to complete his fifty, which eventually came off 63 balls.
The pair continued to bat well until tea, when the score was 214 for four wickets, with Williams on 57 and Raza 30, the pair having added 81 runs.
Embuldeniya came on again, and as before the batsmen stepped up their attack on him.
Williams drove him over long-off, nearly a six, to bring up the hundred partnership with Raza.
As the partnership developed the batsmen began to dominate as is rarely seen by the Zimbabwe team against such quality bowlers.
Raza pulled a six off Kumara to reach a fine fifty off 107 balls, while Williams hit the long-suffering Embuldeniya for a flat six over midwicket as he plundered his way through the eighties.
Raza hit another six off Embuldeniya, but two balls later, attempting another big hit, was caught off that bowler at deepish mid-on.
He scored 72 off 99 balls, of a partnership of 159 for the fifth wicket, hitting two sixes and four fours; the score was now 292.
It was unfortunate for the team that he should have given his wicket away at that stage when the pair had the Sri Lanka bowling at their mercy.
Regis Chakabva joined Williams, who took the score past 300 and then moved to his second Test century with a sweep for four off Embuldeniya; he faced 132 deliveries.
Unfortunately, when he could have stayed in to make the bowlers suffer with a really big score, he like Raza threw away his wicket, taking a big swing across the line at de Silva and being bowled for 107.
He faced 137 balls and hit three sixes and 10 fours; Zimbabwe were now 324 for six.
Play now went into a quiet period, with Chakabva keeping the score ticking over while the debutant Mutombodzi played himself in with care.
They quietly batted out a good day for Zimbabwe, Chakabva finishing with 31 and Mutombodzi with 10, out of 352 for six.