A career-best 200* from Angelo Mathews, along with fifties by Dhananjaya de Silva and Niroshan Dickwella, left Zimbabwe fighting for a draw at the end of the fourth day in Harare.
Starting the day trailing by 63 runs with five wickets still in hand, Mathews and de Silva picked up where they had left off the previous evening.
Both men passed the landmarks they had been shy of overnight with relative ease, de Silva registering a sixth Test fifty and Mathews his tenth Test ton.
The pair had added 30 runs to the overnight total, stretching their partnership to 98, before de Silva perished on 63, becoming debutant Victor Nyauchi’s third victim as he looked to up the scoring rate.
Niroshan Dickwella then joined Mathews, with the pair building another big partnership for the visitors. Milestones were ticked off regularly, though unspectacularly, as the partnership extended into triple digits, before Mathews eased past his previous highest Test score of 160, and Dickwella notched up a 15th Test fifty. But, with the partnership worth 136, Dickwella was trapped in front as he tried to paddle sweep Sikandar Raza, and was sent on his way for 63 as well.
Sri Lanka reached tea on 466/6 with the lead having grown to 108. Suranga Lakmal enjoyed his stay at the crease, striking two sixes in his 27, but his wicket was followed next ball by that of Lasith Embuldeniya, both players falling to Raza’s off-spin. Kasun Rajitha survived the hat-trick ball, hanging on just long enough to accompany Mathews to the 200-mark, a landmark brought up by the former captain striking his 19th boundary.
Just two balls later Rajitha fell to Sean Williams, bringing about the declaration with the score on 515/9 and the lead 157. Raza and Nyauchi finished with three wickets apiece, returning the respectable figures of 3/62 and 3/69 respectively.
Faced with 17 overs to bat until stumps, openers Prince Masvaure and Brian Mudzinganyama – acting as concussion substitute for Kevin Kasuza who was struck in the helmet while fielding close on day three – were resolute in defence. Apart from a brief flurry of activity as three consecutive balls travelled to the fence, they scored at barely a run an over, but crucially both made it to the close unscathed.
Zimbabwe will resume their second innings in the morning on 30/0, trailing by 127 runs and likely needing to bat most of tomorrow to salvage a draw from the match.