COLOMBO. — Craig Ervine was the star of the show as Zimbabwe continued their spirited fight in Sri Lanka on the opening day of the only Test against Sri Lanka at the Premadasa Stadium here yesterday to post their highest-ever score in a day’s play in all their 102 Tests.
The Chevrons, at the close, were 344-8, with Ervine leading the way with the bat after scoring an unbeaten 151, cracking a superb second Test century to lift the side out of the doldrums they had found themselves in in the first session.
The left-hander had walked in with the side two down, both the openers falling to the guile of Rangana Herath cheaply and also saw debutant Tarisai Musakanda depart soon after.
Instead of buckling down and trying to bail the side out of trouble, Ervine opted to counter punch.
He employed the sweep regularly, used the reverse-sweep to good effect and got down to paddle anything that was remotely full against the spinners.
The unorthodox approach put Sri Lanka on the backfoot.
Ervine was able to add 32 runs alongside Sean Williams, but Sri Lanka struck to send back the latter and regain control.
Ervine had an in-rhythm Rangana Herath to contend with for most of the day.
The left-armer had earlier bamboozled Regis Chakabva with a slider, one that followed up a length delivery that spun away, before Hamilton Masakadza was smartly caught by bat-pad.
Musakanda fell for six soon after as Zimbabwe slumped to 38 for three, and later 70 for four.
But even as Herath tried to spin a web, Ervine put up a stout resistance.
Sikandar Raza was the ideal partner for Ervine. The right-hander carried on from where he’d left off in the ODI series.
Having scored 96 for four in the first session, Zimbabwe’s innings found more impetus in the next.
Raza and Ervine took risks and reaped rewards for the same. They picked gaps regularly, and the use of the paddle helped them out of tough situations. Without the control a string of dot balls offered them, Sri Lanka’s spinners, barring Herath, had negligible impact.
Ervine and Peter Moor helped Zimbabwe add 41, before a false shot led to the ‘keeper’s downfall.
With Malcolm Waller, there was another 65 added to the total as Zimbabwe went past the 250-run mark.
All this while, Ervine did not lose sight of the kind of play that had helped him notch up a hundred.
He continued to remain positive against the bowlers, and his timing only kept getting better. Herath, once again, played saviour for Sri Lanka as he had Waller bowled for 36.
At 282 for eight, Sri Lanka still had their chance to ensure Zimbabwe fold for below 300, something captain Dinesh Chandimal had targeted at the toss, but Zimbabwe’s surprise package came in the form of Donald Tiripano.
For the ninth wicket, Zimbabwe put on an unbeaten 58 runs as the day ended with Zimbabwe at 344 for eight.
Ervine notched up his 150 in the penultimate over of the day and was able to walk back with his head held high.
Tiripano ended unbeaten with 24 off 45 balls.
On a mixed day, Zimbabwe will go back with a bigger smile.
From 70 for four, to be able to walk back into the pavilion knowing they will come back to bat on Day two would have been a major boost.
In addition to that, they were also able to rack up nearly 350 runs at a very good rate.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 34 4 /8 (Craig Ervine 151*, Malcolm Waller 36; Rangana Herath 4-106) vs Sri Lanka. — Cricbuzz.