Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka at Harare
15 Dec 1999 (John Ward)

The march of the lemmings: Zimbabwe self-destruct

As Sri Lanka were one-nil up in the five-match series, with one match abandoned, it was vital for Zimbabwe to win this match to retain any hope of victory in the series.

At 81 for one in 15 overs, chasing 249, they looked well in the game. Then, like a tribe of lemmings heading for the cliffs, they self-destructed on a massive scale to collapse ignominiously to a 98-run defeat.

The law of averages finally seemed to be reasserting itself as Zimbabwe, after nine toss losses out of ten at one stage, won their third successive toss at the Harare Sports Club, and as usual nowadays at this venue put the opposition in to bat.

The weather at the start of the match was fine and rather breezy. Andy Pycroft felt that the pitch for this match was the best at this venue this series, a good batting pitch although allowing a little movement in the first half-hour. The Sri Lankan team was unchanged, while Zimbabwe replaced Trevor Madondo with Stuart Carlisle.

Kaluwitharana enjoyed a piece of luck in Olonga's first over, mistiming a pull that just cleared mid-on. His next shot, a better hit, went for four as Olonga again pitched short. Olonga did at times trouble the batsmen with his pace, though, and Jayasuriya (1), trying to drive him outside off stump, edged a catch which was very well taken by Campbell diving far to his right at second slip. Sri Lanka were 12 for one.

Atapattu drove Rennie sweetly through extra cover for four, but lost Kaluwitharana (12), who checked a pull shot against John Rennie and got a top edge to be caught by brother Gavin at square leg, reducing Sri Lanka to 25 for two.

Then came a quiet period as Atapattu and Jayawardene dug themselves in against tight bowling by Rennie and Brent. Jayawardene was beginning to look in control when he tried to turn a ball from Brent down the leg side and was given out caught at the wicket for 18 by umpire Graeme Evans; the television replay was inconclusive but the Zimbabweans were convinced of it. Sri Lanka were 58 for three.

As he had in Bulawayo, Arnold began his innings slowly, but gradually they began to speed up the scoring rate, and Atapattu cut Guy Whittall beautifully square for four. The partnership steadily mounted, mainly by ones and twos, and Atapattu reached a sound fifty by pulling a short ball from Guy Whittall for four; the next ball, short again, he drove for another four off the back foot through extra cover. He took another four with perhaps his first false shot, cutting at Brent and getting a top edge through the vacant slips. Arnold had an escape as he tried to flick Olonga over mid-on and just cleared the fielder; next ball he skyed it higher, only to be dropped by John Rennie running back from mid-on.

At drinks after 37 overs Sri Lanka were 153 for three, but the very next ball after the break he drove Brentís slower ball straight to Olonga at mid-off, his third false shot in as many balls. The stand was worth 95, of which Arnold made 37. Atapattu (69) soon followed, slashing at Olonga outside the off stump and snicking a catch to the keeper, and Sri Lanka were 160 for five, both batsmen out in quick succession just as they were preparing to carry out a major assault.

Chandana was immediately close to being run out by a direct hit backing up too far; the third umpire decided in his favour although the camera appeared to show his bat in the air at the vital moment and this decision was to prove important. Dilshan hit a superb four over extra cover off Brent, but generally the batsmen struggled to dominate the accurate Zimbabwe bowling and a couple of mistimed strokes eluded fielders. The 200 came up only at the end of the 46th over, with a leg-side snick by Chandana.

Dilshan off-drove Olonga powerfully for four, then Chandana (26) hit a huge skyer which was safely taken by Brent on the midwicket boundary, making Sri Lanka 208 for six, while Dilshan (27) gave Olonga his fourth wicket of the innings when he stepped right across his stumps trying to turn a straight ball to leg, and was bowled; Sri Lanka were 222 for seven.

This left Sri Lanka with only tail-enders to play out the innings, but Wickramasinghe and Vaas hit superbly, 19 coming off Brentís last over, including sixes by Vaas over midwicket and Wickramasinghe straight off the final ball. Sri Lanka finished on 248 for seven (Vaas 11, Wickramasinghe 19).

Campbell and Grant Flower began in fine style for Zimbabwe, driving confidently and powerfully, and it was hard to believe how these two have struggled for runs this season. They hit some classic boundaries on the off side in particular and ran well between the wickets, while Campbell lofted Wickramasinghe high over wide long-on for six. While they were there Zimbabwe looked more than ready to challenge any target, as they were producing perhaps the best Zimbabwe batting seen all season.

Immediately after the drinks break, though, came the turning point that destroyed the match for Zimbabwe in no time at all. Flower turned a ball to square leg and called for a run, then changed his mind, but Campbell(37) was committed and ran through, nobly sacrificing his wicket, to be run out by Chandana, throwing in from midwicket; Zimbabwe 81 for one. Goodwin got off the mark by top-edging a sweep that cleared Jayasuriya at short fine leg by the narrowest of margins.

Grant Flower, although looking devastated after his part in the Campbell run-out, continued to play his strokes freely. But, having seen how Goodwin was almost caught first ball, he imitated him in every respect, only this time Jayasuriya was able to run and leap to pull down a brilliant catch. Flower (47) just missed his fifty again.

Andy Flower followed him in and followed him out; he quickly swept Jayawardene straight down the throat of Wickramasinghe at deep square leg, and Zimbabwe once again began to resemble lemmings rushing over the cliff to disaster; they were now 101 for three.

Stuart Carlisle received an unprecedented chance to play an innings of substance in a one-day international, but whether he appreciated coming in against Muralitharan, or whether it was wise to send him in when unfamiliar with this bowler, is uncertain. Pushing outside the off stump, he had failed to score when he edged a top-spinner straight to the keeper and Zimbabwe were 102 for four, with victory now in a matter of minutes reduced to an impossible dream, barring miracles.

Guy Whittall got off the mark by lofting Jayawardene just over the head of midwicket. Briefly he and Goodwin rallied the batting, although relying mainly on the sweep against the spinners. Goodwin (25) tried it once too often, sweeping hard and low to midwicket where Wickramasinghe picked up a superb catch off his toenails. Zimbabwe were now 122 for five and staring defeat in the face.

The march of the lemmings continued as Whittall and Rennie attempted a risky two runs for a straight drive by the former, leaving the latter (2) to be run out by a good throw from Atapattu; Zimbabwe were now 129 for six. Brent (2) was next to go, beaten and bowled by Muralitharan at 132 for seven. Then Rennie (5) slogged at thigh-high full toss from Chandana and only succeeded in skying a catch to short third man, where Atapattu had plenty of time to run round from backward point; 139 for eight.

Guy Whittall meanwhile was fighting a lone battle and looking good when hitting straighter. His cousin Andrew (2) did him poor service, sweeping at Chandana and being bowled behind his legs, and then with the total still on 150 Olonga was dismissed lbw to the same bowler. Whittall was left stranded on a gallant 22, but few of his colleagues had anything to be proud of.


Date-stamped : 15 Dec1999 - 17:26