Sent in to bat on a green and slightly damp Harare surface, Zimbabwe lasted only 41.3 overs, leaving Sri Lanka a target of 155 that they chased down breezily courtesy Dhananjaya de Silva’s unbeaten 78. Easy on the eye and ruthless on anything short or on his pads, de Silva scored his second ODI half-century, and put on 56 for the first wicket with Kusal Perera and 84 for the second with Niroshan Dickwella to steer Sri Lanka home with 153 balls remaining.
Given the total they were defending, and the fact that the pitch was easing up as the match wore on, Zimbabwe couldn’t afford to give Sri Lanka’s batsmen any lives. De Silva was the recepient of one off the first ball of the chase, when he nicked Tinashe Panyangara to wicketkeeper Peter Moor only to be reprieved by a no-ball call. The pressure was off Sri Lanka thereafter, with Zimbabwe’s bowlers sending down a steady stream of loose balls, usually erring on the short side. Perera and Dickwella were both out to pulls, but the shot was also highly productive, bringing Sri Lanka 38 runs off 14 balls, including seven of their fours and the one six of their innings, hit by Kusal Mendis off Graeme Cremer’s legspin.
With the surface offering sideways movement as well as bounce, Upul Tharanga had no second thoughts about choosing to bowl first – it was the 17th time the captain winning the toss had done so in the last 19 matches at the Harare Sports Club – and his seamers took no time making use of the conditions, running through the top order to leave Zimbabwe 50 for 6. They were in danger of falling short of 100 for the fifth time in ODIs against Sri Lanka, but Peter Moor and Graeme Cremer prevented that eventuality with a seventh-wicket partnership of 55.
Moor fell for 47, while Cremer, who moved the total past 150 with some help from Donald Tiripano and Tinashe Panyangara, was left stranded on 31. Making his ODI debut, allrounder Asela Gunaratne finished as Sri Lanka’s most successful bowler, picking up three lower-order wickets with his medium-paced offcutters.
The early damage, though, was done by Sri Lanka’s three frontline seamers. Suranga Lakmal started the top-order procession in the fourth over of the innings, hitting a good length in the corridor and letting the pitch do the rest as Brian Chari and Craig Ervine poked uncertainly and nicked to the slip cordon. Nuwan Kulasekara, returning to Sri Lanka’s line-up for the first time since January, then got one to stop on Sikandar Raza, who flicked in the air to short midwicket, before Sean Williams threw his wicket away to spin, jumping out to left-arm spinner Sachith Pathirana, slogging, and missing the line of one that went with the angle from around the wicket.
Nuwan Pradeep, the third seamer, struck the next two blows, straightening one just enough to get Chamu Chibhabha lbw playing across the line, and then, in his next over, moving it a little further to get a leaden-footed Elton Chigumbura caught behind. Zimbabwe had lost six wickets in just 17.1 overs.
Moor looked in excellent touch in an aggressive 52-ball innings, striking cleanly and fearlessly whenever anything was in his zone; he hit four effortless sixes, the pick of them a shovel over long-on off Pathirana and a pull off Kulasekara that lifted Zimbabwe past 100. He fell the very next ball, though, caught on the crease by an inducker that hurried past his defensive jab and rapped his front pad in front of middle and leg.
Tiripano showed impressive technique for a No. 9 in moving to 19 before going for an ill-advised hoick off Gunaratne that picked out long-on. Gunaratne then spun an offcutter like a fast offbreak to pin his fellow debutant Carl Mumba lbw, before Panyangara, slog-sweeping merrily, hit a four and a six before he was the last man out, miscuing another attempted slog. Watching from the other end, Cremer wouldn’t have been too pleased with that shot, or indeed the one Tiripano played to get out. He had batted sensibly and looked in barely any trouble, and would have hoped someone stuck around long enough with him to take Zimbabwe as close to the 50-over mark as possible. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)