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

Zimbabwe find batting form but Sri Lanka still victorious

Sri Lanka clinched the one-day series with a third successive victory over Zimbabwe, this time by six wickets. For the first time this season, though, Zimbabwe turned in a fine batting performance, with fringe player Stuart Carlisle the hero, only for their bowlers to disappoint.

On another sunny Harare morning Andy Flower seemed to have put his poor early-season form with the toss firmly behind him, as he won for the fourth successive time and this time decided to bat.

He was presumably influenced by Zimbabwe's poor showing chasing targets so far this series, and was prepared to risk the possibility of early life in the pitch in an effort to lead the way this time. The pitch was a little more grassed than it was on Wednesday but Andy Pycroft expected it to be a good batting pitch with perhaps a little help for the spinners later on.

Zimbabwe finally decided Eddo Brandes has spent long enough carrying the drinks, and brought him in for Andrew Whittall. Sri Lanka have also made one change, replacing Sanjeeva de Silva with Ravindra Pushpakumara.

The bowlers did indeed get life and movement from the pitch early on, especially Vaas, but the openers handled them well until Flower got a ball from Vaas that reared from a length, leaving him with no chance to adjust his shot, and the result was a catch off the splice to Arnold at second slip. In the seventh over Zimbabwe were 17 for one.

Stuart Carlisle, given another chance to show his ability higher in the order, came in at number three, and just survived a very good ball from Vaas before cutting his next handsomely for four. He battled to survive against the sharply moving ball, but hung on, while Campbell increased in confidence; when Pushpakumara bowled him a ball wide of off stump he hammered it wide of cover for four.

Both batsmen began to show signs of impatience at being pinned down by accurate bowling in helpful conditions, but Carlisle finally picked up an overpitched ball from Pushpakumara and drove it powerfully straight for four. He had a lucky escape in the next over from Vaas, checking a similar stroke but lobbing it gently over the bowler’s head – into no-man’s-land. He survived, and after 15 overs Zimbabwe were 49 for one (Campbell 22, Carlisle 16).

With the bowlers still causing problems at times, the batsmen concentrated on quick singles, running well between wickets. Campbell (43) once again failed to build a large innings, losing patience, lashing out at Chandana and being caught by substitute Chamara de Silva at long-on. Zimbabwe were 79 for two in the 27th over (Carlisle 23).

Goodwin came in with aggressive intent, and swung Muralitharan for a four to square leg, the boundary very nearly being fortuitously stopped by umpire Russell Tiffin on the way. Carlisle then picked up Chandana with the slog-sweep, a powerful low hit over the cow-shot boundary for six. Later in the over Chandana missed a chance when Carlisle drove a full toss hard back to his left. The hundred came up in the 32nd over; Zimbabwe had wickets in hand, but as they have proved before that did not necessarily mean anything at all. Jayasuriya broke through, as he so often does, with his left-arm ‘darts’, yorking Goodwin for 26 and reducing Zimbabwe to 129 for three.

Andy Flower was off the mark immediately with a reverse sweep off Jayasuriya, very fine for four. Then Carlisle reached his first one-day fifty with a fine cover drive off Arnold for four, then swung him at least twenty metres over the long-on boundary for six. He continued to ram it down the throats of his many critics, hitting third and fourth sixes, both off Jayasuriya, high over wide long-on.

During the last 15 overs Carlisle and Flower launched a blistering assault on the Sri Lankan bowlers, reaching the boundary time and again despite the five fielders placed deep. Carlisle swung Muralitharan to the long-leg boundary to bring up his first century in either version of official international cricket. It came off 122 balls, his second fifty coming off only 28 balls. Flower brought up his fifty off only 29 balls by swinging Vaas to long leg for another four but

250 came up in the 49th over as Carlisle chipped Jayasuriya over his head for two. Wickramasinghe drew the short straw for the final over, but he bowled a good full length and conceded only eight runs. Carlisle slogged him for four to leg but Flower, looking for a six off the final ball, was caught by Muralitharan on the cover boundary for 53. Zimbabwe totalled 260 for three, and Carlisle was left unbeaten with a magnificent 121. He faced 138 balls in 181 minutes, hitting 8 fours and 4 sixes.

Unfortunately, having got their batting right, Zimbabwe's bowling and fielding this time were not up to their usual standard. There were too many wides, too many aberrations in line and length, but to start with Zimbabwe did not appear to be doing too badly. They missed a golden opportunity to dismiss Kaluwitharana, as a mix-up left him stranded backing up in mid-pitch, but Brandes got his hand in the way of the throw at the end of his follow-through.

Kaluwitharana began to play his shots over the leg-side field, but Jayasuriya (8), trying to hit a ball from John Rennie that was too straight, skyed a catch to midwicket where brother Gavin took the catch. Sri Lanka were 25 for one in the fourth over.

Kaluwitharana enjoyed another escape when he slashed at Brandes, got an edge, and Zimbabwe paid the penalty for omitting a second slip when the chance went just wide of Campbell at first. He played a fine drive for four through extra cover off Brandes, and Atapattu (6) was the man to go, slashing outside off stump and snicking a straight-forward catch to the keeper. Sri Lanka were now 44 for two.

Kaluwitharana’s next escape came when he drove at Rennie and got a leading edge; Grant Flower at extra cover dived but was just unable to hold the ball before it hit the ground. He celebrated with a series of pulls and cuts for four and reached his fifty off his 37th ball with a pull over midwicket for four off Rennie, and then lashed Whittall for two off-side fours in the next over, both just clearing the fielders. After 15 overs Sri Lanka were 94 for two (Kaluwitharana 63, Jayawardene 3).

Once settled in, Jayawardene too began to go for his strokes and played some fine shots, including two successive on-drives for four off Whittall, the second only just clearing the fielder. Kaluwitharana, in contrast to his earlier devastating hitting, took it easy through the eighties and nineties, but then threw caution to the winds disastrously on 99. Flower brought back Olonga, Kalu tried to pull his first ball which kept lower than he expected and he dragged it on to his stumps – out for 99 off 86 balls. Sri Lanka were now 188 for three in the 31st over (Jayawardene 57).

Jayawardene (63) snicked a ball low to the right of Flower who dived low and claimed a catch; the television replay appeared to show that the ball had just hit the ground first but the third umpire Ian Robinson decided it was out, after a delay during which a section of the crowd became quite aggressive. Sri Lanka were now 213 for four.

Arnold (42) and Dilshan (20) then took their time, as they could afford to do, in securing a six-wicket victory for their side. If the Zimbabwean bowling had matched their batting, or even their bowling in many previous matches, the result might well have been different.


Date-stamped : 18 Dec1999 - 20:05