Tharanga ton gives Lankans 537

254254For a brief period on the second morning, Zimbabwe made run-scoring look strenuous. For the rest of the day, Sri Lanka’s batsmen enjoyed a placid Harare surface and a tiring bowling attack to pile on 537. Upul Tharanga, displaying admirable patience, reaped the most rewards on the second day to score to his second Test ton, an unbeaten 110.

Tharanga milked the bowling for the majority of his innings, capitalising on anything short with cuts and dabs behind square on the off side. With legspinner Graeme Cremer blocking that option by bowling a fuller length, Tharanga chose to sweep, a lofted heave over midwicket bringing up his fifty. Once he was set, the drives came out and their timing was excellent.

Tharanga was assisted by debutant Asela Gunaratne, who auditioned for a regular spot in the Test squad with 54 off 102 balls, compiled with a compact technique and an ability to manoeuvre the field. A tight channel just outside off didn’t work against him: he often opened the face to steer boundaries either side of gully.

But, soon after becoming the 18th Sri Lankan batsman to score a fifty on his Test debut, Gunaratne misjudged the length of a short delivery from left-arm spinner Sean Williams. A leading edge off an attempted pull was taken at midwicket.

Zimbabwe were sloppy in the field again: Peter Moor missed a stumping and dropped two more catches, in addition to his two spills on the first day. Tharanga was given a life when he checked a drive off Donald Tiripano, but Tino Mawoyo at cover could not hold on to a catch low to his left. It was a disheartening spell of play, especially considering how well Zimbabwe had bowled in the morning.

Seamers Chris Mpofu and Mumba kept the ball well outside the off stump and asking overnight batsmen Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva to play away from their body if they wanted runs. The batsmen were content in seeing off their opening spell though and only occasionally wafted at the bowlers’ invitingly wide deliveries.

In their recent Test series against New Zealand, Zimbabwe’s bowlers displayed competence in consistency but weren’t able to ‘bore’ batsmen for long enough. Newly-appointed coach Heath Streak may have already turned that around. Barring the sporadic overpitched delivery, the bowlers repeatedly hit the same lines and lengths which meant Zimbabwe conceded only 50 runs in the first 24 overs of the morning. And that led to De Silva, on 15 runs in 55 balls, to step out to Cremer. He failed to get to the pitch of the ball, went through with the stroke and ended up skewing a catch long-off.

Zimbabwe had another good spell of play towards the end of the day. There were 23 overs to go for stumps but the batsmen – despite a massive deficit – were positive from the outset, shimmying down the track or sweeping hard even if they weren’t to the pitch of the ball, particularly against Rangana Herath. They finished the second day at 88 for 1, trailing by 449 runs.

There wasn’t much turn for the spinners; most deliveries skidded on with the arm. One such delivery from Herath rapped opener Brian Chari on the pad in front of leg stump. Umpire Simon Fry raised the finger but it seemed the ball may have been sliding down with the angle. Sri Lanka could have added another wicket in the next over, with Suranga Lakmal inducing Hamilton Masakadza into an expansive drive. The resulting outside edge, though, was dropped by Dimuth Karunaratne at first slip. Masakadza, with 33 off 50 balls and Tino Mawoyo, with 41 off 74 balls and, took Zimbabwe to stumps. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)