Trail Zimbabwe by 63 runs with 3 wickets in hand | Sunday Observer

Trail Zimbabwe by 63 runs with 3 wickets in hand

Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer struck twice in three overs to cripple the Sri Lanka middle order batting.
Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer struck twice in three overs to cripple the Sri Lanka middle order batting.

Zimbabwe continued to dominate the one-off Test against Sri Lanka when they finished on top at the end of the second day by reducing the home team to 293 for seven wickets in reply to their first innings total of 356 at the R Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

None of the Sri Lankan batsmen could emulate the marathon effort put in by Craig Ervine who batted 347 minutes for his 160 - that was the cornerstone on which Zimbabwe’s innings was built.

Sri Lanka got off to a good start with openers Dimuth Karunaratne (25) and Upul Tharanga (71) posting 84 and at one stage were 212 for three before losing four wickets 62 runs to hand the advantage back to Zimbabwe by stumps.

Skipper Graeme Cremer was the key figure in Sri Lanka’s collapse as he extracted bite and turn from the pitch which had dried out and hardened with his right arm leg spin to scalp Chandimal and Niroshan Dickwella off 4.1 overs of each other, having accounted earlier for the prize wicket of Kusal Mendis for 11.

Sean Williams chipped in with the crucial wicket of Angelo Mathews for 41 and Zimbabwe who was brilliant on the field were also helped by two unnecessary run outs that Sri Lanka could ill-afford at the stage.

The wicket ideally suited Tharanga’s style of play. With hardly any lateral movement for the fast bowlers he was able to hit boundaries at will with the minimum of feet movement, a technique that would have got him into trouble if he was playing elsewhere other than at the R Premadasa Stadium.

He was very strong on the off side so that Zimbawbw had a 6-3 field for him. He was batting so well carrying his ODI form into the Test when he suffered something of a brain fade and was run out at the non-striker’s end backing up too far.

Chandimal’s powerful drive hit the hand of bowler Tiripano and ricocheted onto the stumps with Tharanga trying to regain the crease with his foot rather than his bat. Any coaching manual would have told him that he had got his basics all wrong.

Unlike the first day the pitch was beginning to offer spin with the ball gripping the surface and making certain balls pop up after lunch.

Whereas the ball hardly passed the batsmen’s bat on day one yesterday it was a totally different ball game with Cremer’s leg spin giving the Lankan batsmen enough and more to counter with.

Mendis’ tenure at the wicket was very brief and he fell to a fine delivery from Cremer which he could only edge to the wicket-keeper. Mendis should look back and reflect that he had missed out on a golden opportunity of making a big score.

Chandimal in his first appearance as Test captain and his first against Zimbabwe scored a fine half century but could not extend that knock further when he was beaten by the sharp turn obtained by his vis-à-vis Cremer and only succeeded in edging a catch to Chakabwa behind the wicket.

Chandimal’s dismissal ended a useful 96 runs liaison for the fourth wicket with Mathews who also did not last long when he lobbed the ball going for a lap sweep and Masakadza running from slip to short fine leg took a spectacular catch to send the former captain back for an unimpressive 41.

Dilruwan Perera promoted ahead of Asela Gunaratne who was nursing a left hamstring injury batted well for 33 before running himself out needlessly as he hesitated over a single.

It was left to a hobbling Gunaratne and Rangana Herath to see the day through as Zimbabwe went for the kill by taking the second new ball shortly before the close, but the two batsmen survived it and a lot will depend on them to get Sri Lanka as close as possible to the Zimbabwe total, if not past it.

Sri Lanka took a little over 20 minutes to capture the two remaining Zimbabwe wickets for the addition of 12 runs with Herath breaking the record ninth wicket stand of 74 between Ervine and Tiripano to claim his 30th five-for haul in Test cricket.

Mpofu tried to play the reverse sweep once too often and paid the penalty when he edged a catch to Karunaratne at slip.

Ervine finally perished for 160 trying to farm the strike when he attempted to hit Lahiru Kumara over third man but only succeeded in holing out to Dilruwan Perera who had been stationed there.

Ervine’s 347 minute knock for 160 (13 fours, 1 six) was the third highest score by a Zimbabwean overseas after Andy Flower’s two knocks of 232 (n.o.) and 183 (n.o.) against India at Nagpur and Delhi in 2000.