Sri Lanka require a further 218 runs and Zimbabwe 7 wickets : Test excitingly poised for thrilling finish
The one-off Test between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe was poised for an exciting finish on the fifth and final day today after an absorbing fourth day at the R Premadasa Stadium yesterday.
Zimbabwe was finally dismissed in their second innings after lunch for 377, which left Sri Lanka with a target of 388 to chase in a minimum of 138 overs for victory. By stumps the game was in the balance with Sri Lanka wiping out 170 of those runs and leaving themselves with a further 218 runs to get on the final day while from Zimbabwe’s view point they have captured three vital wickets and have 90 overs to capture the remaining seven if they are to record their first Test win over Sri Lanka.
As the game stands both results are possible. At the wickets are Kusal Mendis unbeaten on 60 and former skipper Angelo Mathews on 19. Mendis is a big game player and a sizeable knock is due from him any moment. He suffered from bouts of cramps whenever he attempted the sweep shot and had to be treated twice on the field. Sri Lanka could do with one of his big innings here if they are to chase down this huge target. They would also require Mathews’ experience in the middle.
Only twice has a team successfully chased down more than 350 in Sri Lanka – Pakistan chasing 377 to win by seven wickets at Pallekele in 2015 and Sri Lanka 352 to beat South Africa by one wicket at the P Sara Oval in 2006.
It seems the pitch has two appearances for when Zimbabwe batted none of the Sri Lankan bowlers could extract much turn or lift from it and batting was made to look easy. But when it came to Sri Lanka’s turn to bat the ball started to do plenty especially the wrist spin of skipper Graeme Cremer who finished the day with figures of two 67 bowling unchanged 19 overs.
If Zimbabwe are to create history of any sort Cremer’s right-arm leg-breaks is the key for he managed to get more purchase out of the wicket than any of his other three spinners he used during the Lankan second innings. From the inception of the second innings Zimbabwe have been attacking Sri Lanka with spin which is expected to play a crucial role on a fifth day pitch.
Zimbabwe rode on Sikander Raza’s maiden hundred to put themselves with a chance of recording a historic maiden Test win over Sri Lanka.
This is the 18th Test match that is being played between the two countries and of the 17 completed Sri Lanka has won 12 and the remaining five have ended in draws.
Raza’s century gave Zimbabwe a lifeline. His innings of 127 of 205 balls saw them lift themselves from a despairing 23-4 to 306 before he was eventually dismissed attempting to reverse sweep Rangana Herath and getting bowled to give the bowler his 31st five-for in an innings and eighth match bag of ten or more wickets.
Raza who began the day on 97 required just two deliveries to reach his landmark and he celebrated it with a leap in the air and a hug from his partner Malcolm Waller with whom he added a record 144 off 215 balls for the seventh wicket.
Waller made a useful 68 off 98 balls (8 fours) and after his dismissal and that of Raza 17 runs later, Sri Lanka were further frustrated by Cremer and Donald Tiripano in a partnership that produced 55 valuable runs. Cremer missed out on his half century when Herath had him caught off his glove on the sweep for his 11th wicket of the match.