Anurasiri makes a welcome return with 3 for 65
By SA'ADI THAWFEEQ
Sri Lanka came back strongly after the first session to reduce Zimbabwe to a first day total of 251 for 9 wickets in the Second Cricket Test played at the SSC grounds yesterday.
Zimbabwe who took first lease of a good batting track after winning the toss, were happily placed on 101 for one at lunch, Sri Lanka hit back in the final two sessions through spinner Muthiah Muralitharan and Don Anurasiri to wrest the initiative away.
Thirty-one-year-old Anurasiri on his return to Test cricket after a four-year lapse, finished the day as Sri Lanka's most successful bowler, taking 3 for 65 off 27 overs capturing the wickets of top scorer Murray Goodwin for 73, Andy Flower for eight and Paul Strang for five.
Muralitharan had figures of 2 for 72, which left him one short of 150 Test wickets.
Later in the day, Chaminda Vaas who went wicketless in his first nine overs, struck with the second new ball to end with 2 for 35.
Overall, it was a thoroughly professional approach by the Sri Lankans that saw Test cricket's minnows capitulate for such a moderate total.
Zimbabwe began the day promisingly with an opening partnership of 70 between Gavin Rennie and Grant Flower. They lost Flower for 41 playing on to Pushpakumara after 82 minutes at the wicket. Left handier Rennie perished to Muralitharan at 50, attempting to sweep against the spin once too often. He hit six fours in compiling his second half-century of the series in 140 minutes.
Zimbabwe lost their way in the afternoon session when three wickets fell - all to indiscretion on the part of the batsmen. Guy Whittall was needlessly run out for 11, attempting an impossible single, and Andy Flower hit back an easy return catch to Anurasiri at eight.
The sixth over after the tea break saw Goodwin, who had batted patiently for 182 minutes attempting to cut a straight ball from Anurasiri and being bowled. He hit nine fours. Craig Wishart went for two, lbw without offering a shot, and Paul Strang holed out to Anurasiri for five. Vaas with the second new ball wrapped up an excellent day for Sri Lanka by bowling Heath Streak for three, and having Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell caught behind pushing tentatively at an outswinger for 44 made in 131 minutes (7 fours).
Day 2: Zimbabwe lead by 50 runs
By SA'ADI THAWFEEQ
Leg-spinner Paul Strang gave Zimbabwe an unlikely first innings lead of 26 runs when he took 4 wickets for 77 to dismiss Sri Lanka for 225 on the second day of the second cricket Test at the SSC grounds.
By the close, Zimbabwe who are one-down in the mini-two-Test series, had scored 24 for one wicket, to extend the overall lead to 50 runs. Zimbabwe scored 251 in their first innings.
On a day when 11 wickets fell, Zimbabwe did extremely well to gain the upper hand. They were helped in their mission to square the series, by some injudicious strokeplay by the Sri Lankan top-order batsmen.
Sanath Jayasuriya played an airy shot with head in the air to hole out to mid-on. It was the third successive time in the series that he had got out to fast bowler Heath Streak. Roshan Mahanama played on to Mbangwa, and Aravinda de Silva miscued a pull from outside off stump to give an easy return catch.
First Test double century-maker Marvan Atapattu was caught attempting to cut Strang and, when Hashan Tillekeratne was unluckily out for seven, the ball lodging in silly mid-off's hands as the fielder took evasive action against a drive, Sri Lanka had lost half the side for 130.
With Chaminda Vaas unable to take any further part in the Test after going down with measles the previous night, Sri Lanka were already down to only 10 men.
Skipper Arjuna Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwtharana staged a partial recovery with a sixth wicket stand of 68 in 72 minutes which raised hopes of Sri Lanka passing Zimbabwe's total.
But Kaluwitharana, who hit a chirpy half-century off only 46 balls with 12 fours, was unfortunate to be given out caught behind by ICC umpire Salim Badar of Pakistan. TV replays showed that Kaluwitharana had not got a touch.
With only the tail to support him, Ranatunga completed his 29th half-century in 76 Test, but was out shortly afterwards sweeping Strang straight in to square-leg's hands. Ranatunga batted 206 minutes and hit six fours in a defiant innings.
Strang finished the innings by bowling Pushpakumara, leaving Zimbabwe with 12 overs of batting for the day. Strang received excellent support from Streak, who bowled 15 overs of sustained pace to take 2 for 28.
Lead Sri Lanka by 267 runs with four wickets intact: Flower bros. bloom for Zimbabwe
By SA'ADI THAWFEEQ
Flower brothers Andy and Grant hit half centuries apiece to steer Zimbabwe into a strong position in the Second Test against Sri Lanka at the SSC grounds, yesterday.
Andy hit an undefeated 61 and Grant made 52, to enable Zimbabwe close the third day at 241 for 6 wickets - an overall lead of 267 runs with two days remaining.
Zimbabwe who began the day at 24 for one, consolidated their position slowly but surely to bat out the whole day, after the first two days had seen 20 wickets fall.
Grant who had a lucky escape at 17 in the second over of the morning, when Sanath Jayasuriya failed to latch onto an uppish cut at point, went onto score his first half century of the series. He made 52 in 174 minutes with four fours, before Jayasuriya finally bowled him.
Brother Andy played a rather sedate innings to remain undefeated on 61 scored in 228 minutes inclusive of five fours and a six.
The brothers were involved in important partnerships that kept Zimbabwe's innings afloat for another day.
Grant and Murray Goodwin (39) put on 70 for the third wicket. The stand was ended when Goodwin was bowled around his legs by Jayasuriya in the penultimate over before lunch, having batted for 98 minutes and hit five fours.
Andy and skipper Alistair Campbell frustrated Sri Lanka's limited bowling attack which was minus Chaminda Vaas, further, by adding 75 runs for the sixth wicket. Campbell lost his wicket at 37, when he attempted to reverse sweep Don Anurasiri and gave a catch to wicket-keeper Romesh Kaluwitharana.
Guy Whittall (17) provided off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan with is 150th Test wicket in 36 Tests when he popped the ball off his gloves to substitute fielder Mahela Jayawardene at short extra cover.
Throughout the day, Sri Lanka were without skipper Arjuna Ranatunga, who did not take the field due to a strained back. His deputy, Aravinda de Silva rung the bowling changes and picked up two wickets himself with his fast off-breaks, including that of 'night-watchman' Andy Whittall in the fourth over of the day.
Jayasuriya was the other successful bowler taking two for 43 runs on a day when the emphasis was on spin. Fast bowler Ravindra Pushpakumara bowled only five of the 94 overs sent down for the day.
Day 5: Record 189-run stand for 6th wicket
By SA'ADI THAWFEEQ
Sri Lanka's master batsman Aravinda de Silva fashioned out yet another memorable win for his country when he hit an impeccable 143 not out to play the stellar role in their five-wicket win over Zimbabwe in the second cricket Test which ended at the SSC grounds yesterday.
Chasing 326 for victory, Sri Lanka arrived there 35 minutes before tea on fifth and final day when De Silva slammed part time bowler Murray Goodwin through mid-wicket for four.
The win gave Sri Lanka a clean sweep of the two-Test mini series. They won the first Test played in Kandy by eight wickets.
Sri Lanka achieved a similar result in the last series played between the two countries here in 1996-97.
With skipper Arjuna Ranatunga contributing a courageous 87 not out, De Silva added 189 runs for the sixth wicket in an unbeaten partnership which was a record for Sri Lanka in Tests against all countries.
The previous best sixth-wicket partnership was 143 between Ranatunga and Romesh Kaluwitharana also against Zimbabwe at the R. Premadasa Stadium in 1996-97.
De Silva and Ranatunga came together with Sri Lanka having lost half the side for 137 runs on the fourth day, and were still unconquered when victory was finally achieved. It was a tremendous effort as the part of the two players to turn the game around in Sri Lanka's favour after Zimbabwe had seemed on course to achieve their first Test victory abroad in 26 Tests.
The win was Sri Lanka's fourth in seven Tests against Zimbabwe and their 11th overall in 81 Tests.
The captain put up a brave effort to see his side through despite being handicapped by a strained back which kept him off the field for the entire Zimbabwe second innings.
Ranatunga batted for all, but seven runs with the aide of runner (Marvan Atapattu) to complete his second fifty of the match and his 30th overall in 76 Tests.
He batted 309 minutes and faced 232 balls in his knock which comprised 12 fours.
De Silva completed his 16th Test century and his first against Zimbabwe in 321 minutes with one six and 11 fours. At 90, he also reached 1,000 runs in Tests on this ground where he has now second five centuries in his last six Test innings.
Overall, De Silva's match-winning knock which brought him the 'Man of the Match' award, spanned 459 minutes and lasted 313 balls. He hit two sixes and 16 fours in an innings which would rank as one of his best because it was played under tremendous pressure.
Sri Lanka started the day on 209 for five, needing a further 117 runs for victory. The first hour's play produced only 17 runs from 14 overs, but the second new ball taken shortly afterwards, saw runs come at a much healthier rate with a further 41 being added off 13 overs.
De Silva went to his century batting continuously in 231 minutes and facing 218 balls (one six, 11 fours). He was stuck in the nineties for nearly an hour before reaching three-figures by flicking off-spinner Andrew Whittall for a couple to fine leg.
Zimbabwe tried everything to dislodge De Silva and Ranatunga and showed their frustrations on the field when some verbal exchanges took place between the players of both sides. Excessive appealing by the Zimbabweans did not help their cause.
Zimbabwe captain Alistair Campbell made a rather uncomplimentary remark when he said after the Test: ``I don't think Sri Lanka played all that well to win''. ``It was a good game of cricket, but it went out of our way. I don't think we played all that badly to lose. Both sides are pretty well balanced'', said Campbell.
``We have improved with every game. We hope to take the form that we produced in the two Tests into the one-day games,'' he said.
Ranatunga said that Zimbabwe played better cricket after the Kandy Test. He praised De Silva's century and said; ``I gained a lot of confidence when Aravinda started to play shots. He played very well and we were able to achieve our target.''
Off-spinner Muthiah Muralitharan with 17 wickets in the 2 Tests was named 'Man of the Series'.
More Day 5: Highest Test winning total
By Sa'adi Thawfeeq
Sri Lanka achieved their highest winning total in a Test match when they beat Zimbabwe by five wickets at the SSC grounds yesterday.
Sri Lanka chased a target of 326 for victory and were successful.
The previous highest winning total for Sri Lanka was 142 against England also at the SSC grounds in 1992/93. On that occasion too, Sri Lanka won by five wickets.
The following are Sri Lanka's highest totals to win, lose and draw a Test match.
Highest total Sri Lanka has chased and won: 326 for 5 v. Zimbabwe (SSC) 1997-98.
Highest total Sri Lanka has chased and lost: 348 v. Australia (Hobart) 1989-90 (target 521).
Highest total Sri Lanka has chased and drawn: 344 for 6 v. New Zealand (Hamilton) 1990-91 (target 418).