• SL v ZIM, One-off Test, Day 4 Review: Zimbabwe eye a historic Test win

    With 218 runs still to get, the match pretty much hangs in balance with only two results possible.

    Zimbabwe cricket captain Graeme Cremer celebrates with teammates. (Photo by ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/Getty Images)

    A remarkable comeback from Zimbabwe propelled them from a paltry 23/4 for to 377 in their second innings, which meant that Sri Lanka needs a mammoth 388 runs to win the game. They raced off to a brilliant start with Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis piling up some crucial runs. But with two wickets falling in quick succession Zimbabwe now eye their first ever Test win against Sri Lanka in 18 attempts.

    The match could still go either way, but if Sri Lanka loses another couple of wickets before crossing the 250-run mark, that’ll make the job a lot more difficult and eventually, they might succumb. At stumps, the Lankans finished on 170/3 in 48 overs with Mathews and Mendis in the middle. Sri Lanka are still 218 runs shorts of their target.

    The visitors resumed Day 4 with an overnight score of 252 for the loss of 6 wickets and Sikander Raza (127 off 205 balls) completed his hundred in the very first over of the day. He punched the air in delight with Malcolm Waller (68 off 98 balls), his partner in crime, was all smiles as well. Waller, who went all out over the Lankan bowlers, took a cautious route on day 4.

    It was Raza who took charge as his companion just kept picking singles. The frustration on the faces of the hosts was pretty much palpable and they even wasted a review on Waller. But soon after, Diruwan Perera sent Waller back and skipper Graeme Cremer (40 off 89 balls) came into the middle.

    The stubborn tail that irritated the bowlers

    Seven overs after Waller’s dismissal, Raza attempted a cheeky reverse sweep off Rangana Herath and gifted him his fifth wicket of the innings and 10th in the match. Nevertheless, that was an innings of sheer perseverance and determination, for which he received quite an applause from the Lankan fans.

    Inspired from a sublime effort from Raza, Donald Tiripano (19 off 55 balls) and Cremer too stuck in the crease and though runs didn’t come as quickly as it came on Day 3, they gave Sri Lanka absolutely nothing to rejoice. The occasional boundary did keep coming from the skipper’s bat and the duo added 55 runs for the 9th wicket batting almost 20 overs together.

    Perera then cleaned up Tiripano and the stubborn resilience was about to break down. Herath struck almost immediately to get his 6th in the innings and Zimbabwe managed 377, a score which appears gigantic considering how poor a start they got from the top order.

    Herath surpassed the legendary Sir Ian Botham’s tally of 383 scalps in Tests with Cremer’s wicket. But there was another record that the Islanders have to break, the highest ever run chase in Tests in Sri Lanka. Previously, it was 388 and they need exactly the same number of runs to spoil Zimbabwe’s party.

    Strong start from the top 3

    A good start is always vital for a team’s cause and it becomes all the more important when it comes to chasing such big totals. Upul Tharanga and Dimuth Karunaratne provided them with a decent enough start as the duo added 58 runs for the opening wicket before Tharanga nicked it to the keeper off Cremer.

    Karunaratne struggled a bit during his stay at the crease, but Kusal Mendis kept stroking the ball beautifully. Whenever there was a juicy full toss on offer, his willow bludgeoned it to boundary ropes in some style. The southpaw played some nice shots and Sri Lanka were looking well on course for a record-equaling run chase.

    But Karunaratne finally lost his concentration and Sean Williams rattled his stumps. The 29-year-old was caught by a surprise from Williams as he left the ball, just to watch the off-stump take a long ride. Cremer then gave them a huge blow as he got his opposite number Dinesh Chandimal, who looked good in the 17 balls he faced.

    Cramps troubled Mendis a lot in the final five overs of the game but he somehow managed to see-off the day alongside Angelo Mathews. With 218 runs still to get, the match pretty much hangs in balance with only two results possible. Either Sri Lanka will win it or Zimbabwe will create history and it’s hard to pick one of these options as of now.

    Brief Scores

    Zimbabwe 1st innings: 356 all out in 94.4 overs

    Sri Lanka 1st innings: 346 all out in 102.3 overs

    Zimbabwe 2nd innings: 377 all out in 107.1 overs(Sikander Raza 127, Malcolm Waller 68, Rangana Herath 6/133)

    Sri Lanka 2nd innings: 170/3 in 48 overs(Kusal Mendis 60*, Dimuth Karunaratne 49, Graeme Cremer 2/67)