ZIMBABWE’S bubble eventually busted yesterday, but the hosts are still fancying their chances in the first Test cricket match against Sri Lanka at Harare Sports Club.
The Chevrons, who had made a solid start on Sunday, yesterday experienced mixed fortunes as they pushed their total to 358, but Sri Lanka hit back courtesy of a five-wicket haul by Lasith Embuldeniya.
The Sri Lankans however, lost opener Oshada Fernando (21) and were on 42/1 at stumps.
It will be exciting to see which way the scales will tip on the third day today.
Zimbabwe made the important breakthrough via all-rounder Donald Tiripano, who struck with his first ball.
Sri Lanka, who started off as clear favourites, are keen to take total control but it will all depend on how they bat today with skipper Dimuth Karunaratne (12) and Kusal Mendis (6) expected to get things going this morning. An early wicket could do the trick for Zimbabwe.
The Chevrons still have their destiny in their own hands. They had resumed batting on 189/2 yesterday but they suffered an early setback when they lost night-watchman Brendan Taylor (21) in the first session trapped lbw by Suranga Lakmal. Sri Lanka got two more big wickets before the lunch with removal of skipper Sean Williams (18) and Craig Ervine who had a worthwhile knock of 85 runs before he was bowled clean by Lakmal.
Embuldeniya completed a second career five-wicket haul, claiming three of the four wickets to fall in the second session at Harare Sports Club.
But although Sri Lanka have made more progress on day two than they did on a slow first day, Zimbabwe continued to defy them up to the tail-end.
Thanks to Embuldeniya’s wicket, and an outstanding short leg catch by Kusal Mendis off the bowling of Lahiru Kumara, Sri Lanka were able to take the extra half hour to dust off the Zimbabwe innings before the tea break was taken.
Donald Tiripano, however, continued to inch the hosts forward, moving to 41 before Sri Lanka’’s half hour ran out. With him was debutant No. 11 Victor Nyauchi, who batted out 21 deliveries and made five runs of his own.
Sri Lanka could have taken the final wicket with the score on 331, but no one backed up a throw at the non-striker’’s end that could have resulted in an easy run out, and three overthrows were conceded instead.
The resistance was finally broken when Nyauchi was taken out for 11 runs. Tiripano was unbeaten on 44 runs at the end of play. Zimbabwe also had 41 runs from Sikandar Raza — the most positively minded of Zimbabwe’’s batsmen, striking at 63 when none of his team-mates have managed to go at even 50.
He hit six fours, mostly on the leg side, sweeping Embuldeniya, and often using his feet. Although there had been little turn on offer for Embuldeniya through much of day one, the pitch had dried out slightly and this is what envenomed him through the afternoon.
Having artfully drawn Sean Williams into a fatal loose shot in the morning, Embuldeniya’’s first wicket after lunch was that of Regis Chakabva, who attempted to loft him down the ground, but miscued him to mid-on, where Angelo Mathews took an excellent tumbling catch.
Raza was his next victim. Reading the batsman’’s intention to run down the pitch at him, Embuldeniya bowled a hard-spun shorter delivery to beat the shot, and have the batsman easily stumped. Kyle Jarvis was next to go, leaving a huge gap between bat and pad for Embuldeniya to turn a ball through.
In the morning, Suranga Lakmal had been Sri Lanka’’s most impressive bowler, as he consistently threatened the stumps with the relatively new ball — something he had not done enough of on day one. He got Brendan Taylor lbw early in the day, before coming back just before lunch to dismiss Craig Ervine, who played on to his stumps attempting to stroke Lakmal through cover point.
Kumara was the only other bowler to make a breakthrough, when No. 10 Ainsley Ndlovu whipped a full delivery straight into the midriff of Mendis at short leg. That Mendis held the catch was incredible, as this shot had come off the middle of Ndlovu’s bat.
Stumps Day 2: Sri Lanka 42 for 1 (Oshada 21, Karunaratne 12*, Tiripano 1-5) trail Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Kasuza 63, Masvaure 55, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 316 runs. – Sports Reporter/Cricinfo.