SL v ZIM, One-off Test, Day 5 Review: Sri Lanka steal a win as Zimbabwe end close but too far
Niroshan Dickwella entered the battlefield and changed the whole course of the match on his own with the knock worth 81 off 118 balls.
Updated - Jul 18, 2017 3:35 pm
A record breaking run-chase at the Premadasa stadium left Zimbabwe stunned and the hosts completed one of the most amazing victories in their history. They gave it their best shot with some crisp bouncers and a wonderful rendition of spin bowling, but the Islanders arbitrated the final outcome and celebrated an unforgettable triumph.
A wonderful batting display from Asela Gunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella helped Sri Lanka chase down the huge target and registered their fifth highest run chase in Test cricket history. This is also the highest run chase in Sri Lanka and Asia.
Continuing at 170/3, Zimbabwe decided to attack the hosts with some quality spin right from the commencement of day 5, Sean Williams and skipper Graeme Cremer took the bulk of the bowling responsibilities. They were the most productive bowlers thus far in the innings and they managed to build pressure on the batters not giving away easy runs.
The pressure did get the better of Kusal Mendis (66 off 101 balls), who attempted an ambitious slog sweep which took a top edge and fell in the hands of Williams. Cremer was the man who provided the breakthrough and then Niroshan Dickwella entered the battlefield and changed the whole course of the match on his own with the knock worth 81 off 118 balls.
Whilst the former captain went into a defensive mode, Dickwella started playing the big shots. The entire leg side had 4 fielders on the fence to protect boundaries but the southpaw was still finding gaps. But a huge moment in the match came when Angelo Mathews (25 off 73 balls) attempted a drive off Cremer and was caught by the bowler. At 203/5, the visitors could smell something spectacular and the devastated fans reluctantly started leaving the arena.
A Controversial decision that left Zimbabwe distraught
Dickwella was accompanied by Aslela Gunaratne and these two youngsters had a different way to approach the predicament. Zimbabwean bowlers were left scratching their heads as both these batters competed amongst themselves for being the aggressor. It was a healthy combat for Sri Lanka’s cause as the target started to condense relatively quickly.
Then came the moment which eventually decided the outcome. Dickwella attempted a front-foot defence and his back leg was on the line when keeper Regis Chakabva cleaned the bails up. The third umpire took ages to get to a conclusion and whilst the commentators cried “Out” because there was nothing behind the pop-up, the third umpire signaled “Not Out” and batting coach Lance Klusenar was palpably agonized.
Zimbabwe lost their concentration for some period after that and Dickwella capitalised big time. Singles, doubles and boundaries were coming easier than ever before and he had completed his half-century with a slog over mid-wicket for four. Cremer and Williams bowled their hearts out but whenever they got some assistance from the pitch, it either went past the outside edge or fell short of the fielders surrounding the willow.
Fifty for Gunaratne, agony for Zimbabwe
Gunaratne started off aggressively but he paced his innings beautifully later on. The duo completed an outstanding hundred runs partnership and soon after, Gunaratne too got to his fifty carrying a hamstring strain. Dickwella’s stay was cut short in the same over when his partner completed his fifty.
An unnecessary reverse-sweep sent him back to the gallery, but that’s how he operates and walked back off a massive ovation from the crowd, who had earlier contemplated leaving the ground after Mathews’ wicket. Zimbabwe got an opening there, but some tough chances were grassed and Gunaratne alongside Dilruwan Perera (29 off 76 balls), piled each run carefully on their path to glory.
Perera’s drive through the covers hit the fencing and completed one of the greatest run chases of all time. Cremer tried every option he had but when fortune forbids you, there’s nothing one can do than watch the proceedings. The long wait to register a win in the longer version against Sri Lanka extends but this definitely was a valiant effort from the Zimbabweans, which gives the Islanders a reality check before the series against India.
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
Sri Lanka 2nd innings: 391/6 in 114.5 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 81, Kusal Mendis 66, Gunaratne 80*; Cremer 4/150)