Zimbabwe face an uphill task if they are to square the series going into the second and final Test against Sri Lanka in Harare starting today.
Sri Lanka go into the game firm favourites after winning the first Test by a convincing 225-run margin. Zimbabwe, though, can take heart from the fight they showed, stretching the game late into the fifth day.
That fight was possible thanks to their captain, Graeme Cremer. He became the first Zimbabwe player to score a century and pick four wickets in an innings in the same Test. His batting in particular was impressive; coming in at number eight with the team struggling at 139 for 6 in the first innings, Cremer remained unbeaten on 102 to stretch Zimbabwe’s score to 373 in reply to Sri Lanka’s 537.
Cremer was also well-assisted by Peter Moor, who made an 84-ball 79. Zimbabwe, however, will want more effort from their top-order batsmen, who all threw away decent starts in both innings. It includes fresh faces like Tino Mawoyo, as well as experienced names like Hamilton Masakadza, Malcolm Waller and Sean Williams.
Zimbabwe’s bowlers were disciplined, but struggled against a sturdy Sri Lankan batting performance, with several catches going down as well. While Cremer picked up four wickets in the first innings, Carl Mumba, the debutant pacer, impressed with 4 for 50 in the second.
But despite Zimbabwe’s fight, Sri Lanka were a bit too mighty and always in control. Kusal Perera and Upul Tharanga made centuries in the first innings, while Dimuth Karunaratne (56), Kusal Perera (94) and Asela Gunaratne (54) made half-centuries.
In the second innings, Karunaratne capped a wonderful match with 110 while Dhananjaya de Silva too impressed with 64. It means that all their batsmen are among the runs as they go into the second game.
Their bowlers, too, had done well. Led by their captain Rangana Herath’s wily left-arm spin, Sri Lanka’s attack combined to deliver a hard-fought win. More importantly, they showed excellent patience and temperament even when Zimbabwe’s batsmen tested them with a good fight.
Form and on-paper strength point to Sri Lanka. Zimbabwe will have to up their game even more if they are to get a favourable result.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Regis Chakabva (wk), Brian Chari, Michael Chinouya, Craig Ervine, Hamilton Masakadza, Tino Mawoyo, Peter Moor (wk), Chris Mpofu, Carl Mumba, Tarisai Musakanda, Taurai Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Donald Tiripano, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams.
Sri Lanka: Rangana Herath (capt), Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Lahiru Gamage, Asela Gunaratne, Dimuth Karunaratne, Lahiru Kumara, Suranga Lakmal, Kasun Madushanka, Kusal Mendis, Dilruwan Perera, Kusal Perera (wk), Lakshan Sandakan, Kaushal Silva.