Zimbabwe victory hopes dashed as Sri Lanka force draw

Sri Lanka

Zimbabwe – 406 and 247-7 declared in 75 overs (Brendan Taylor 67, Sean Williams 53*, Prince Masvaure 35; Vishwa Fernando 2/43, Lasith Embuldeniya 2/81, Suranga Lakmal 1/34)

Sri Lanka – 293 and 204-3 in 87 overs (Kusal Mendis 116*, Oshada Fernando 47, Angelo Mathews 13; Carl Mumba 1/13, Victor Nyauchi 1/43, Sikandar Raza 1/63)


Match drawn


A fighting century from Kusal Mendis enabled Sri Lanka to force a draw against Zimbabwe in the second Test match at Harare Sports Club today.


The tourists, as expected, made no attempt to chase their difficult target to win the match and concentrated successfully on keeping out the Zimbabwe bowlers to ensure a series win for themselves, after they won the first Test match last week.


At the end of the match Sri Lanka had a score of 204 for three wickets and Mendis was not out with 116.


If Zimbabwe had declared overnight, they would have set Sri Lanka 355 to win in 98 overs, a rate of 3.62 runs an over on a heavy outfield, and a task the Sri Lankans would hardly have attempted when they were one match up in the series.


However, Sean Williams wanted to score his fifty, and he swung the first ball of the day, from Suranga Lakmal, over long leg for six to reach 53 off 77 balls, and promptly declared.


In the end it made no difference, as Sri Lanka saved the match quite comfortably.


The Zimbabwe total at the declaration was 247 for seven wickets, and Sri Lanka thus had to score 361 to win in 96 overs.


Sikandar Raza, after his seven wickets in the Sri Lankan first innings, was deputed to open the Zimbabwe bowling, to the opening pair of Oshada Fernando and Dimuth Karunaratne; Donald Tiripano took the other end.


Tiripano, as accurate as ever, bowled four maiden overs before Karunaratne put the fifth ball of his fifth over past mid-off for two.


It was quite clear that Sri Lanka had no intention of chasing the target, as their first 10 overs brought them 14 runs, but they looked in no real difficulty as they played their defensive game.


Tiripano was replaced by the less accurate but perhaps more threatening Carl Mumba, who conceded nine runs in his first over.


In his next over, however, Mumba broke through, as he tempted Karunaratne (12) to dab at a ball outside the off stump, which he edged to the keeper before he was able to withdraw his bat completely; 26 for one.


Once the score was past 50, Fernando and Mendis decided to show more aggression, Mendis hitting Victor Nyauchi for two fours and Fernando blasting Williams for three fours in an over.


It was not a bid for victory, as they settled down to play steady cricket again, and at lunch, at 105 for one, with both batsmen on 46, Sri Lanka looked to be on course for a draw.


In the second over after the break, though, Raza struck, as Fernando tried to turn a flighted ball to leg and was trapped lbw for 47; 107 for two.


Soon afterwards Mendis reached his 50 off 90 balls, with Angelo Mathews as his new partner.


Zimbabwe toiled hard, but the batsmen stayed in and the bowlers could make no impression.


Finally, though, just as Zimbabwe and their supporters were feeling desperate came the vital wicket of Mathews, who played a ball from Nyauchi a little too early and Craig Ervine held a low catch at silly mid-on.


Mathews made 13 off 69 balls, and Sri Lanka were 141 for three.


The Zimbabweans were jubilant, but they still had much work to do.


Dinesh Chandimal was next in, naturally playing a defensive game.


Mendis and Chandimal saw Sri Lanka through to tea, at 156 for three, with scores of 80 and three respectively, and a minimum of 29 more overs had to be bowled, under the regulations.


After 193 balls Mendis brought up his century in grand style, driving a ball from Raza over the fence at long-on for six.


Chandimal meanwhile survived two close lbw appeals, to Tino Mutombodzi and Raza respectively.


Eventually, just after 4.15, Zimbabwe recognised the inevitable and called the match a draw, shaking hands and trooping disconsolately off the field.


There was not really much more they could have done to win this match, given the resolution of the Sri Lankan batsmen and so little assistance from the pitch or from good fortune.


Sri Lanka finished on 204 for three, with Mendis on 116 and Chandimal on 13, for which he faced 75 balls and had several narrow escapes.


Mendis had batted superbly, facing 233 balls and hitting one six and 13 fours.


Sri Lanka therefore take the series by one victory to nil, and Zimbabwe are still awaiting their first Test match victory over Sri Lanka.


Both Tests were similar in one respect: the last day found one side needing to bat well to avoid defeat.


Unfortunately Sri Lanka achieved this much more successfully than Zimbabwe had done in the first Test.


Zimbabwe deserve congratulations for being competitive against Sri Lanka in the series, and especially for bouncing back to dominate the second Test match throughout after losing the first.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende