Ebrahim's 70 lifts Zimbabwe to 228
Sri Lanka 18 for 0 trail Zimbabwe 228 (Ebrahim 70) by 210 runs
Zimbabwe's inexperience inevitably let them down on the opening day of the second Test against Sri Lanka at Bulawayo. After being well placed at 176 for 4 at one stage, they ended up all out for 228 on a pitch where 400 was probably the par score. However, one bright spot was the batting of Dion Ebrahim, who scored a fighting 70 and at least made the bowlers work harder for their wickets than they had to in the first Test. Sri Lanka closed on 18 for no wicket.
Helped by Stuart Matsikenyeri, Ebrahim made sure Zimbabwe made a better fist of things this time round. Matsikenyeri, who had played only one significant innings previously against these tourists, played a positive, at times daring, knock of 45 from the top of the order. He drove and slashed entertainingly before needlessly running himself out. Ebrahim was more solid, but was still positive. Batting at his preferred position of No. 4, he showed typical fighting spirit in his innings, but nobody else reached 30 and too many wickets were squandered, mainly through inexperience.
After Zimbabwe were put in, Matsikenyeri and Brendan Taylor went in under a cloudless, steely blue sky to face the left-arm opening attack of Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa. Taylor was still very much out of his depth, although, as he showed in the one-day series, there is little doubt that he will produce the goods one day. He made a painful 5 in 38 minutes, before he edged a short one from Vaas to Prasanna Jayawardene, the wicketkeeper (24 for 1). The fact that he walked without waiting for the umpire's decision perhaps demonstrated his naivety in Test cricket at present, but no doubt the runs - and probably the refusal to walk - will come.
Mark Vermeulen, returning to international cricket after his head injury in Australia almost six months ago, failed to score, driving Vaas low to Muttiah Muralitharan at mid-on (31 for 2). Ebrahim then joined Matsikenyeri at the crease and the two of them steadied the innings. Murali came on to bowl 20 minutes before lunch, and concentrated entirely on his offbreaks, with his doosra under suspicion. He was also handicapped by a badly bruised finger.
However, disaster came for Zimbabwe when Matsikenyeri tried to take a quick single after a firm drive to Farveez Maharoof at a deepish mid-off. Maharoof threw down the stumps at the bowler's end with a superb direct hit, while Matsikenyeri veered away at the last moment as the throw came in. The result was that he was narrowly run out, an unnecessary dismissal for an enterprising, if at times risky, innings (82 for 3).
Tatenda Taibu, on his 21st birthday, played some fine strokes. Once again, though, a promising partnership failed to materialise. As Sri Lanka closed up the game and waited for the batsmen to do something silly, Taibu drove Maharoof uppishly to Thilan Samaraweera in the covers for 27 (134 for 4).
Alester Maregwede was impressive when he joined Ebrahim, and he hit Sanath Jayasuriya for a big six over long-on. But then came another unnecessary run-out. Ebrahim turned Murali behind square leg, and Maregwede called for a quick single which Ebrahim declined. But Maregwede went, and was run out by the length of the pitch for 24: another partnership of rich potential ending with a soft dismissal (175 for 5). This proved to be the turning point of the innings. Elton Chigumbura was immediately caught in the slips by Mahela Jayawardene off Vaas without scoring, and Zimbabwe were back in trouble.
The weight of responsibility rested with Ebrahim, who was 70 not out at tea. But he failed to add to that, edging Maharoof to Tillakaratne Dilshan in the slips (193 for 7). Mluleki Nkala and Tinashe Panyangara both made starts, but failed to build on them. Nkala holed out to Kumar Sangakkara on the midwicket boundary as he tried to take on Murali (216 for 9), while Panyangara was caught by Vaas at mid-on trying to hook Zoysa (211 for 8).
Vaas, with 3 for 41, was the most successful bowler, but none of the Sri Lankans was particularly threatening. For the most part, the batsmen got themselves out through unforced errors, an almost inevitable consequence of their inexperience. Sri Lanka did well with their ground fielding, but put down four catches, one in the slips and three by Prasanna Jayawardene, their wicketkeeper, who otherwise did a fine job.
Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu - captains past and present - were content to play out for the close, taking only eight runs off the first eight overs. Panyangara, in particular, bowled with impressive accuracy to keep the score down.
The day's play was watched by fewer than 300 people, among them Heath Streak ... who had to pay to get in.