A disciplined performance from Zimbabwe’s bowlers ensured that Sri Lanka didn’t run away with the advantage, the visitors remaining 284 behind with eight wickets in hand as bad light brought a premature end to the second day’s play in Harare.
At the crease were Angelo Mathews, the double-centurion from the first Test, and Kusal Mendis, on 4 and 19 respectively.
Of the Zimbabwe bowlers, the obvious standouts were Sikandar Raza and Donald Tiripano, the pair accounting for the two Sri Lankan wickets to fall on the day, though they will count themselves unlucky not to have had more.
After an uneventful post-lunch session, the action picked up after the tea break, with Raza providing the breakthrough. Dimuth Karunaratne, who had been selective with his shot-making up until that point, picked the wrong delivery to utilise the sweep, getting trapped lbw by a fuller delivery.
That wicket brought Zimbabwe’s first real threatening period of play in the field. While Tiripano probed from one end, Raza nearly got another, with Mendis edging to short leg only for Prince Masvaure to spill the chance.
Later on, Raza could have had Mendis caught at square leg after the batsman swept in the air, but Tiripano on the square leg boundary failed to track the flight of the ball.
Tiripano, though, could be granted a little leeway, having accounted for Oshada Fernando a few overs earlier. The Sri Lanka opener had been kept quiet in the preceding overs – much of it owing to Tiripano’s discipline – and, as such, was a little too eager to dispatch a rare pitched up delivery. However, with the ball shaping away late, Fernando’s hard attempt at a drive only managed to slice the ball through to Regis Chakabva behind the stumps.
The rest of the session was Mathews and Mendis attempting to consolidate as Sri Lanka were mindful of the importance of not losing another wicket before stumps. Sri Lanka though will be aware of the need to up their scoring rate – currently standing at a touch over two runs an over – on day three, if they are to force a result. Of the nine boundaries scored by Sri Lanka, only one – when Mendis danced down the track to loft a boundary to long-on – was not a result of increasingly rare profligacy on the part of the Zimbabwe bowlers.
The day had started better for the visitors when left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya picked up three of the last four Zimbabwe wickets on his way to figures of 4 for 182. While Zimbabwe’s tail had done well to stick around for most of the morning, they would have been disappointed at not having added more than 54 to their overnight total.
However, with runs on the board, and still three-and-a-half days’ of cricket remaining, the Zimbabwe bowlers looked patience. Tiripano, in particular, was impressive as he rarely veered from his line outside off and constantly bowled on a probing good length.
While the lateral movement was limited, there was enough to keep the Sri Lanka batsmen cautious – at least early on, when keeping wickets intact was more of priority.
All this meant the post-lunch session was the least eventful of the day as Sri Lanka’s batsmen took minimal risks, and the bowlers simply waited for a mistake that wasn’t forthcoming. It resulted in the only wicketless session of the match so far.
Things, however, picked up after tea, before a brief rain interval and then bad light brought play to a close. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)