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Sri Lanka in Zimbabwe
November - December 1999

Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka at Harare
4-8 Dec 1999 (John Ward)

Day1 | Day2 | Day3 | Day4 | Day5

Day1: For the ninth time out of ten, Zimbabwe lost the toss

For the ninth time out of ten, Zimbabwe lost the toss, and were put in to bat again by Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club. Although there was a little rain in the three days between the Test matches, the weather was hot and sunny again as play started. Zimbabwe'sselectors caused some surprises in making three changes to their team, and convenor Andy Pycroft emphasised that the team was picked with a view towinning the match; they are not interested in the possibility of a draw and have staked all their hopes on attack. The newcomers were Craig Wishart, returning after a knee injury, Eddo Brandes at the age of 36, and left-arm spinner Ray Price to make his Test debut. They replace Gripper, Brent and Matambanadzo. Sri Lanka have made only one change, replacing the injured Zoysa, who has returned home, with Pushpakumara. This gave Sri Lanka the same basic bowling attack for thismatch as they used on their last tour to Zimbabwe five years ago. Mr Pycroft did not consider the pitch to be a particularly good one, and noted that there is more grass at one end than the other. Grounds curator Charles Wallace expected there to be life in the first hour, after which it would flatten out into a good batting pitch as the hot sun dried the remaining moisture. Wishart opened the batting with Grant Flower, but never looked comfortable against the moving ball. He got off the mark with a risky single off Pushpakumara into the covers, and had the throw hit the stumpshe would have been out. But the first ball he received from Vaas accounted for him, as it swung back in sharply and trapped him lbw in front of thestumps for 1, umpire Venkataraghavan giving the decision. Zimbabwe were 5 for one. An inside edge off a similar ball got Goodwin off the mark, and then had a bonus in Pushpakumara's next over when a shy at the stumps brought him four overthrows. It was an intriguing battle as the bowlers bowled a number of superb deliveries while the batsmen concentrated on hanging in there until conditions improved. A nudge by Goodwin through the slips off Vaas brought him the first boundary of the match, but he was out for 11 shortly after the drinks interval, beaten and bowled by a superb fast yorker from Pushpakumara that hit the bottom of his off stump, making Zimbabwe 24 for two in the 17th over. Once again Grant Flower was not destined to play a major innings; he played a rather indeterminate stroke to a ball from Pushpakumara outside the off stump without getting to the line, and edged a catch to Dilshan at third slip, diving superbly to his left, for 13. This reduced Zimbabwe to 33 for three. The first hour was over, but the ball was still moving andZimbabwe were still losing wickets. Johnson showed his intentions with a typically fluent off-drive for four off Wickramasinghe. Andy Flower got off the mark by latching on to a wide overpitched ball from Pushpakumara and cutting it to the third-man boundary; this made him the first Zimbabwean to reach 2500 runs in Test cricket. Muralitharan came on to bowl a few overs before lunch, but Johnson and Flower were looking quite comfortable as the pitch eased. The teams wentoff for lunch with Zimbabwe on 53 for three (Johnson 12, Flower 9). Vaas continued to move the ball sharply away from the left-handers off the pitch and they had to watch him carefully. Johnson on 16 got an edge from Muralitharan that slip was just unable to get his hands underneath in time. But Flower (14), perhaps impatient to keep the score moving, playeda rather hesitant stroke outside the off stump and edged a catch straight into the midriff of Arnold at second slip. Zimbabwe were now 68 for four. Campbell got off the mark with a no-ball from Muralitharan, which he drove handsomely through extra cover for four, but enjoyed a life when a ball from Pushpakumara flew off an angled bat to third slip Dilshan, who juggled and dropped it; he celebrated by flicking the next ball to fine leg for four. But then he walked across a straight ball, playing across theline once again, and was declared lbw by umpire Venkat for 9; Zimbabwe slid to 83 for five. Whittall appeared to enjoy a life before he had scored, dropped off a bat-pad chance at short leg. But he dug in with great determination as Johnson batted more fluently, until he pulled a ball from Muralitharan hard but in the air very close to midwicket. In Muralitharan's next overJohnson hit him straight for four, but only rarely were the batsmen able to break the stranglehold of bowlers who gave little away. Zimbabwe went into tea on 104 for five (Johnson 37, Whittall 6). Runs came slowly after tea until Johnson suddenly picked up Jayasuriya with superb timing to hit him over the midwicket boundary for six. He then drove Vaas beautifully down the ground for a straight four but had to wait for several overs on 49 before he was finally able to pull Muralitharan over midwicket to reach his fifty; he mistimed the stroke but the deepfield there was vacant and the batsmen took three. At this stage Guy Whittall seemed to decide it was time for another Keystone Cops-type run-out and went charging up the pitch after playing a stroke out tomidwicket, to be sent back and only making his ground thanks to a slow pick-up. Johnson lashed a ball from Pushpakumara backward of point for four, but next ball popped it just over square leg, the batsmen taking two. Generally, however, he concentrated on watchful defence, occasionally breaking out with a well-chosen drive which usually travelled for four.Then suddenly his concentration snapped as he moved across his stumps and tried to turn Wickramasinghe to leg, to be given out lbw for 70 by umpire Venkat, perhaps unluckily as he was hit fairly high on the front pad down the pitch. Zimbabwe were now 143 for six, after a valuable partnership of 60. Zimbabwe did not have much batting left, with next man in Ray Price, a consistent opening batsman at club level but yet to make his mark with the bat in first-class cricket. He stuck to his task with determination, though, as Whittall gradually began to open up a little more, soon becoming the second batsman of the innings to pass 15. The new ball was taken after 82 overs, but he batsmen handled it well until in fading light a fine delivery from Pushpakumara took the edge of Whittall's bat and was caught by Arnold at second slip. He made 37, and Zimbabwe were 174 for six. Cheers greeted the arrival of Eddo Brandes at the crease in this his first Test against Sri Lanka. A push past short leg brought him his first run and more applause. A slow over rate took play past five o'clock and the light became dubious. The umpires decreed play should continue, and Zimbabwe soon lost Price (2), beaten and trapped lbw by Pushpakumara, hisfifth wicket of the innings. The score was now 175 for eight. Strang clipped Pushpakumara for three wide of mid-on, but now the umpires' umpteenth consultation about the light resulted in their offering it to the batsmen, who consented. Zimbabwe finished the day on 178 for eight (Brandes 1, Strang 3).

Day2: Fine bowling and fielding keep Zimbabwe on even terms

Zimbabwe enjoyed their best day of the season so far, fighting back after a disappointing batting performance to put themselves on even terms for the start of the third day.

178 for eight overnight, they were not expected by many to reach 200, but Bryan Strang had other ideas. He began the day by pushing the first ball, from Vaas, to leg for a single, while Brandes steered the next past the slips for four. The fifth ball Brandes lashed over the slips for four, thus giving Zimbabwe nine runs off the first over.

Both batsmen continued to hit out at every opportunity, as is their natural game, but it did not last for long, as Brandes (9) played a hurried back defensive stroke to Vaas and chopped the ball on to his off stump via bat and bat. Zimbabwe were now 196 for nine.

While Olonga concentrated on keeping his end up, Strang took full responsibility for the entertainment. In a premeditated stroke, he came down the pitch and heaved Pushpakumara wide of mid-on for three, and then a no-ball brought up the 200. He always bats entertainingly, as was shown as an intended swing over midwicket off Vaas cleared extra cover for two. At the other end he played a slightly more orthodox stroke to hit Pushpakumara high over extra cover for four, while Olonga concentrated on keeping his end up and leaving the entertainment to Strang. Then came a pull over long leg for six. But then he chopped a ball tamely into the hands of Atapattu at point of Vaas and was out for 28. Zimbabwe totalled 218, and Olonga was unbeaten on 3.

In a surprise move, Jayasuriya did not open the batting himself, but Arnold went in with Atapattu. However, he was not to enjoy much of a respite before being called into action.

Olonga, after wasting a couple of balls, suddenly struck with his fifth, getting a ball to leap off the pitch. Atapattu tried to avoid it, but the ball looped up for Johnson to take an easy catch at second slip. Umpire Venkat adjudged that it came off the glove, although the television replay suggested it may have been the arm guard or even the helmet. Sri Lanka were one wicket down without a run on the board.

Then Brandes struck with the help of a brilliant catch to bring him his first Test wicket for almost four years. Jayawardene (2) tried to play a good-length ball defensively, only for Goodwin at short leg to dive to his right and take a superb catch inches above the ground. Sri Lanka suddenly found themselves on the defensive at 4 for two.

Olonga and Brandes, with their tails up, gave all they had as they strove to inflict further damage on the Sri Lankan batting. Olonga had two lbw appeals in his next over, one a little high and one just down leg. Zimbabwe set attacking fields, and Arnold and Jayasuriya were able to pick off ones and twos at times.

Arnold had a lucky escape when a ball from Olonga flew off Arnold’s gloves just clear of third slip. With Jayasuriya unusually restrained, Sri Lanka struggled to 22 for two at lunch (Arnold 14, Jayasuriya 4).

Brandes struck again straight after the interval, as Jayasuriya played back to a delivery moving away from him and Andy Flower took the catch off the outside edge. This was Flower’s 100th dismissal in Test cricket (95 catches, 5 stumpings), the first Zimbabwean to reach this total. Jayasuriya made 4, and Zimbabwe were 29 for three.

Dilshan decided to hit his team’s way out of trouble and played a gem of an innings, 37 off 42 balls. This included eight fours, mostly high-quality cover drives with a couple of pulls, and actually looked a far more accomplished player this time than he had during his century during the Second Test. But just as the drinks interval was imminent, Strang bowled him a ball just outside off stump on a good length, to which he played an indeterminate shot and got an edge through to the keeper. Sri Lanka were 82 for four.

Kaluwitharana was soon off the mark with an airborne shot over the covers off Strang. But when on 7 and showing frustration at being unable to get hold of the attack, he lashed out at two successive deliveries from Whittall, getting an edge to the keeper off the second. Sri Lanka were now stumbling at 90 for five.

Then came a crucial stand for Sri Lanka, who now had their last two recognised batsmen together. Arnold was playing responsibly but hitting the overpitched ball well; he drove Strang through extra cover and straight for four off successive deliveries. De Saram had only a single to his name when he snicked Strang neatly between third slip and gully to the boundary, a possible low chance had a fielder been there. He was in some trouble against Strang, but survived as Sri Lanka crept past 100.

At last de Saram found some confidence and off-drove Strang for four, while Arnold, now becalmed, snicked Olonga just short of the slips. Ray Price came on for his first bowl in Test cricket to de Saram and almost got a wicker first ball, as the batsman swung and missed a yorker just outside off stump. It was a maiden over first time up. The teams went to tea with Sri Lanka on 112 for five (Arnold 45, de Saram 11).

After tea the batsmen concentrated on survival, and runs came slowly. The first boundary came after 20 minutes, when de Saram fastened on to a short ball from Olonga and cut it square. Then Arnold finally reached his fifty by cutting Price past slip for three. Slowly the batsmen began to get on top, with de Saram the more fluent while Arnold played the sheet-anchor role. They began to attack Price, whose first six overs had cost only 10 runs, and as they passed the fifty partnership the balance of the match was clearly beginning to swing again.

De Saram played some fine drives and cuts on the off side. Both batsmen, though, had occasional flashes which failed to produce an edge. At last the breakthrough came, as de Saram (38) slashed at a ball from Whittall outside off stump without getting over it and hit a hard catch to the right of Grant Flower in the gully. Sri Lanka were now 158 for six.

Brandes came back for another spell and immediately appealed for lbw against Arnold, but it was a little too high. He had Vaas’ number, though, as the batsman slashed at a ball moving away outside off stump before he had scored, and Campbell pulled down a head-high catch at second slip. Sri Lanka were now 159 for seven.

Brandes had a vehement lbw appeal against Pushpakumara first ball, but the ball was going down leg side. Then, without further addition to the score, the umpires took the players off for bad light with 11 overs still unbowled and Arnold still there on 65.

Day3: Sri Lanka take slender lead before bad light stops play

For the first time in the season, Zimbabwe went into the third day of a Test match on even terms with the opposition. This was not to be their day, though, as the Sri Lankan tail gave support to Russell Arnold, who eventually carried his bat through the innings, and then they lost both openers for a lead of only 35 runs before bad light followed by rain cut off the second half of the day.

Olonga bowled an innocuous opening over in which only one ball required the batsman to play a stroke, Pushpakumara gliding it to third man for a single. Brandes was on the spot immediately, but the batsmen continued quite comfortably for a while, mainly picking up singles. They had a narrow escape when Arnold turned Brandes past short leg and they decided to risk a second run on Strang's throw, and only just got home. Then Pushpakumara gloved a ball from Strang, who quickly replaced Olonga, over the keeper's head for four, and then snicked a ball just short and wide of the keeper for another two. Then came another two edges along the ground into the slips, and he was clearly living a charmed life.

Arnold hit the first four of the day when he clipped Whittall sweetly off his toes to the square-leg boundary. Pushpakumara (7) looked to be handling Strang's next over more comfortably until the bowler got a ball to swing in, beat his bat as he pushed half-forward, and umpire Venkat gave the lbw decision. Sri Lanka were now 178 for eight.

Wickramasinghe did not seem to be setting his sights on a long innings, as right from the start he looked eager, if unable, to get hold of Strang. He settled down, though, to play sensibly, although missing no opportunity to attack, while Arnold too tried to improve his scoring rate. Arnold swung Price to the midwicket boundary to reach the eighties, and Zimbabwe took the new ball after 80 overs, with the score on 192 for eight. Strang bowled the first over with it, and Wickramasinghe hoisted him high over mid-on for a one-bounce four. Going for another big hit, he skyed the ball high over backward point, too far for a fielder to reach. The 200 came up as he turned Brandes to fine leg for a single, then Arnold hooked Brandes superbly for four. Wickramasinghe opened his shoulders to Strang with a lofted off-drive for four, and it seemed that Sri Lanka were slowly but surely reasserting their grip on the match.

Then Wickramasinghe (18) threw his wicket away quite unnecessarily, as Olonga bowled him a short ball above head height well outside the off stump, and the batsman reached far and wide so as to snick a catch to the keeper. Sri Lanka were 208 for nine, 10 runs behind.

A hook from Arnold took him to 90 with his last partner, Muralitharan, at the crease. Sri Lanka took the lead as an on-drive by Arnold off Brandes beat the fielder on its way to the boundary.

Arnold reached his century with a streaky shot that just bounced short as it bisected the slips on its way to the boundary. Muralitharan never looked likely to last long, aiming a few wild strokes, especially at the short balls, but stay he did, until he swung once too often at a yorker from Olonga and had his middle stump abstracted for 5.

Sri Lanka were all out for 231, a lead of 13, leaving Arnold unbeaten on 104. This is the first time in Test history that two opening batsmen from the same team have carried their bat through a completed innings during the same series, following Atapattu’s feat in Bulawayo. It is noticeable in all three Tests how the Sri Lankan batting has been dominated by a different batsman each time, with little support from the others apart from Jayawardene in the Second Test.

Vaas wasted his first over, bowling it outside the off stump, for Grant Flower to allow five balls to pass before driving the sixth for two runs. Flower seemed deliberately to be batting with more enterprise than he has shown for a long time, perhaps feeling that after a long run of low scores he has nothing to lose by being more aggressive.

Flower drove Vaas straight for two to take Zimbabwe's aggregate ahead of Sri Lanka's again. Wishart looked much less comfortable, and played and missed several times. However it was Flower (13) who fell first, once again to his current weakness outside off stump, fending outside off stump without getting behind the line, to be caught by Dilshan at third slip off Vaas. Zimbabwe were 14 for one.

Goodwin was off the mark immediately, turning Vaas to fine leg for a single. The teams took lunch with Zimbabwe on 16 for one, each batsmen with a single to his credit.

Wishart began after lunch with a cracking front-foot drive through extra cover to the boundary off Vaas.

Apart from that, he did not look particularly confident, and umpire Robinson did well to turn down a confident appeal when a ball from Vaas went right through him. However he drove the next delivery, overpitched, confidently for four.

Goodwin spent almost 20 minutes before adding to his score by slashing Wickramasinghe past cover for four. Then Wishart (9) fell, playing back to Vaas, leaving the gate open slightly and chopping the ball via the inside edge on to his leg stump; Zimbabwe were now 28 for two.

They struggled for survival as much as runs against a fine Sri Lankan attack on a helpful pitch, with the ball moving around freely. Johnson looked positive as usual, but not secure, as he played several uppish strokes to keep the Sri Lankan fielders in a state of excitement. Goodwin finally broke loose to cut Vaas for four, but in the main it was painful progress.

The light steadily deteriorated and rain was not far away as the umpires consulted about the light, but decided to continue.

When Vaas changed ends, Goodwin got in another fierce cut for four. But, before the end of the over as the rain clouds continued to build up, it was clear that play could not continue, and at 1.55pm local time the players left the field with Zimbabwe on 48 for two (Goodwin 15, Johnson 9).

The light did not improve, although it was not until about an hour later that rain finally began to fall, plenty of it. Play was due to start half an hour early on the fourth morning, weather and conditions permitting.

Day4: Play abandoned on fourth day

Heavy rain after the premature end of play on the third day, followed by further rain overnight, delayed the start of play on the fourth day.

Some water got on to the pitch and it was estimated that it would take at least an hour to dry - if there was no more rain. But the skies were always heavily overcast, a very light drizzle on and off had the ground staff whipping the covers on and off as well several times during the morning, before the expected rain began to fall just after 11am. As it became heavier it was soon clear that no play would be possible at all during the day.

At 12.30, with pools forming on the outfield, the day's play was officially abandoned, and the prospects for the final day must be considered very gloomy.

Day5: Flower guides Zimbabwe to safety but Sri Lanka take the series

Zimbabwe successfully fought their way through a cloudy but dry final day of the Third Test, but were doubtless disappointed that rain, which had washed out almost five sessions, so completely altered what until then had been a well-balanced match, considering that Sri Lanka would have had to bat last on this pitch.

Now, with only the final day left, Sri Lanka were the only team that could still win, barring remarkable happenings. All Zimbabwe had to play for was a draw, by batting out time on a damp pitch that gave considerable assistance to the Sri Lankan seamers, as well as plenty of turn for Muralitharan.

Zimbabwe began the day 35 runs ahead with eight wickets in hand. The sky was still largely overcast as play started, but with no sign of rain. They soon lost the wicket of Johnson (9), who received a ball from Wickramasinghe that flew wickedly from the pitch and off the edge of his bat to third slip Dilshan, reducing Zimbabwe to 51 for three.

Goodwin and Andy Flower struggled for survival against the moving and lifting ball. With the pitch damp in patches, the movement and bounce was inconsistent, making it impossible for the batsmen to play with any confidence. The heavy outfield conspired to make run-scoring more difficult still. The batsmen remained positive, though, looking to score off every loose ball. Goodwin was denied the first four of the day when a powerful straight drive off Pushpakumara demolished the stumps at the far end of the pitch.

The pitch seemed to ease a little after an hour or so, and runs began to come more freely. With the seam bowlers causing less trouble, Muralitharan came on to bowl. He tied the batsmen down until Goodwin swept him powerfully to midwicket for four. Muralitharan got him eventually, though, with a superb top-spinner that came off the edge of his bat to be caught by Arnold at slip. He scored 38, and Zimbabwe were 93 for four. The Zimbabwe innings was in the balance again as Campbell joined Flower, and once again the ability or otherwise of the captain to hang in there was crucial.

Campbell began cautiously before pulling a short ball from Pushpakumara fiercely through midwicket for four. Campbell's ability to rise to a crisis has been in the past for some time, but on this occasion he kept his head down and his concentration up, and Zimbabwe went in to lunch on 119 for four (Flower 27, Campbell 15).

The batsmen began confidently after the interval, although Campbell was surprised by a shooter from Pushpakumara that missed off stump and beat the keeper as well, yielding a bye. He experienced some trouble with Muralitharan, who had his two close off-side fielders by the bat, but Flower stole a single and then swept powerfully to the midwicket boundary. Campbell edged a ball from Pushpakumara just short of third slip, but then pulled him to midwicket for four. But the bowler twice beat him outside off stump in his next over, and clearly the pitch was still giving the bowlers assistance.

Muralitharan was getting a great deal of spin now, and causing Campbell in particular a great deal of trouble, partly due to his failure to get fully forward. Vaas was the one to take his wicket, though, as Campbell (27), not quite behind the line, was late on a ball that held its line but flew off the pitch, and edged a catch to Jayawardene at second slip. Zimbabwe, on 151 for five with their last two recognised batsmen together and Flower on 41, were still struggling for survival.

Whittall hit a superb cover drive for four off Vaas, but did not always appear so confident. Wickramasinghe had a confident appeal for a catch down the leg side by Flower turned down by umpire Robinson, who enjoyed a very good match, the television replay appearing to show another good decision with the ball flicking the pad.

Flower finally reached his fourth fifty of the series (off 184 balls) in streaky fashion, slashing at Muralitharan and getting a thick edge which flew over first slip to the boundary. Whittall (9) fell victim to another top-spinner from Muralitharan, edging a low catch to Arnold at slip, and Zimbabwe were 174 for six, with the tail exposed.

Price came in to be surrounded by three close fielders and survived three balls without adding to the score before the teams went off for tea. Zimbabwe were 161 ahead with four wickets in hand, a maximum of 39 overs still to be bowled and Flower on 54 – not safe yet.

Price struggled at first, but took advantage of a full toss from Muralitharan to execute a well-timed off-drive to the boundary. Flower, now into his 25th hour of batting in the series, batted on patiently, but was responsible for one more run-out against Zimbabwe, calling Price (4) through for a risky and unnecessary single. Jayasuriya fielded at square leg and threw in to the bowler’s end, where the ball fortuitously rebounded from Muralitharan’s hands on to the stumps, reducing Zimbabwe to 184 for seven.

Brandes restrained himself and concentrated on staying there, and the lack of urgency in the field seemed to indicate that Sri Lanka had given up any expectations of victory. The light began to deteriorate, but not seriously enough to threaten play immediately. Zimbabwe were still taking their batting very seriously, but Sri Lanka were now merely going through the motions.

Zimbabwe made a token declaration almost immediately after the drinks break, with their score on 197 for seven (Flower 70, Brandes 1). This left Sri Lanka in theory with 185 required to win and a maximum of 18 overs to be bowled.

Atapattu began the second innings by pulling a long hop from Olonga for a cracking four. Jayasuriya opened the batting second time round, denying Arnold the chance to be on the field throughout the match, and got off the mark by steering the ball uppishly through the gap between slips and gully. But Brandes struck early again, as Atapattu (6) attempted a hook and edged the ball to the keeper, making Sri Lanka 7 for one.

Arnold enjoyed a life when he snicked his first ball straight to substitute fielder Andrew Whittall at third slip, but the chance went down. Jayasuriya then began to open up and go for his strokes, although even he could hardly hope to match the required scoring rate, and Arnold followed suit. The match finally ended at 5pm local time, with Sri Lanka on 36 for one (Jayasuriya 16, Arnold 14).

On a less pleasant note, Johnson, Campbell and Goodwin were fined 30% of their match fees and given suspended sentences by match referee Jackie Hendriks for persistent sledging of Sri Lankan batsmen. This is the first time Zimbabwean cricketers have been punished for this kind of offence, and probably came about as a backlash after the Goodwin run-out incident.

Date-stamped : 08 Dec1999 - 16:12