Zimbabawe humble Sri Lanka in record run chase

First it was Bangladesh who recorded their maiden Test win over Sri Lanka in March and yesterday it was the turn of Zimbabwe to stun Sri Lanka as they chased down a target of 317 successfully to record their first ODI win in Sri Lanka. It was the highest successful run chase in Sri Lanka in 296 ODIs.

The venue was the Galle International Stadium which was hosting its first ODI since 2000 and Zimbabwe made it a memorable one for them as they swept to an emphatic six wickets win with 14 balls to spare to go one-up in the five-match series yesterday.

Sikhander Raza rejoices a famous victory for Zimbabwe after making the winning hit – a six. AFP

Yesterday also happened to be chairman of selectors Sanath Jayasuriya’s 48th birthday and what an anti-climactic birthday present he received from the team he selected.

The foundation for Zimbabwe’s dramatic win was laid by opener Solomon Mire who scored his maiden ODI century and Sean Williams (65). They shared a record third wicket stand of 161 off 133 balls to set Zimbabwe on course for this famous win in their rather chequered history.

Although both batsmen were dismissed 11 balls of each other by the golden arm of Asela Gunaratne, Zimbabwe who bat deep till number 10 didn’t lose any more wickets as Sikhander Raza (67 n.o.) and Malcolm Waller (40 n.o.) carried them to a win with an unbroken partnership of 102 off 80 balls.

Overall it was Zimbabwe’s eighth win against Sri Lanka in 51 ODIs.

Sri Lanka had only themselves to blame for the defeat as they spilled as many three catches – a malady which they are finding pretty hard to get rid of.

Mire and Williams were both missed and how costly it proved as Sri Lanka was to realize when the partnership between the two grew into ominous proportions. Centurion Mire was dropped twice at 17 by wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella off Amila Aponso and at 94 by Lasith Malinga at deep fine leg off Gunaratne. Williams was put down on 13 by Danushka Gunathilaka at point off Lahiru Madushanka. Had those chances been accepted Sri Lanka would have romped home quite comfortably but it was not to be their day. The lapses on the field hurt Sri Lanka deeply as Zimbabwe made capital out of them.

It was not only their fielding that let Sri Lanka down but also their bowling which was rather sub standard the way they bowled for an international side.

The chances of a defeat wouldn’t have entered their minds when Sri Lanka ended their innings at 316-5 after electing to bat first.

Two youngsters Danushka Gunathilaka and Kusal Mendis laid the platform for that total with a 117-run stand. Both looked good to get hundreds but they perished playing some injudicious shots. Gunathilaka was out playing the reverse sweep and Mendis got a leading edge attempting to work the ball towards leg. Mendis made 86 off 80 balls and Gunathilaka 60 off 77. Mendis in the process became the second fastest Sri Lankan to reach 1000 runs in ODIs (28 innings) after Roy Dias (27 innings).

Upul Tharanga returning to the side after serving a two-match suspension for slow over rate held the innings for the rest of the overs to remain 79 not out forging two useful half-century partnerships with Angelo Mathews (49) and Gunaratne (28).

However all that effort was lost when Sri Lanka took the field for the Zimbabwe innings.

Mire was named Man of the Match.

The second ODI will be played at the same venue on Sunday.

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