Sri Lanka show no mercy
Zimbabwe 228 and 44 for 2 trail Sri Lanka 713 for 3 (Sangakkara 270, Atapattu 249, Jayawardene 100*) by 441 runs
It was a day of records at Queens Sports Club, but it wasn't a contest. Sri Lanka batted into the final session, amassing 713 for 3, before Marvan Atapattu gambled on a declaration. Some gamble. Zimbabwe ended the day on 44 for 2, still needing 441 to avoid an innings defeat.
Brian Lara can breathe again, as neither of Sri Lanka's double-century makers had the stamina to challenge his Test record. Atapattu fell for 249, while Sangakkara made 270 before both fell to Zimbabwe's bowlers, who were totally outclassed but never surrendering. It was the first time in Test cricket that six bowlers had conceded more than 100 runs in a Test innings.
In the morning, it took Sangakkara 18 minutes to move from his overnight 186 to his second Test double-century. He was 208 when another difficult chance went down, third man spilling an uppish slash. At the other end, Atapattu drove Elton Chigumbura classically through extra cover for four to take him past his previous Test best of 223, and continued on his stately way.
Every now and then, though, the batsmen showed signs of boredom, and Atapattu's concentration finally lapsed once too often when he tried to run Chigumbura through the vacant slip area and was well held by a diving Tatenda Taibu, the wicketkeeper (538 for 2). Atapattu's innings lasted 516 minutes, he faced 324 balls and hit a six and 36 fours. The partnership with Sangakkara realised 438, the sixth-highest in Test cricket for any wicket.
Sangakkara's wicket was the only to fall in the afternoon, and that was the sum total of Zimbabwe's success. Sangakkara, 250 at lunch, and dropped before he had scored, and he also fell to a Taibu catch when he attempted to glide Tinashe Panyangara to third man and only got a thick edge (627 for 3). He hit 36 fours and two sixes, in 468 minutes off 365 balls. Many expected Atapattu to declare there and then, but perhaps he was under pressure from his middle order, who also wanted the chance to fill their boots.
So Mahela Jayawardene took centre stage, stumbling out of the changing room like a bear roused from hibernation and determined to join the party. He was soon driving sweetly and late cutting with abandon in the absence of any slip fielders. He was in a race to reach his century before tea, but ended the session on 93. Atapattu let him go back out after the break to score the seven runs, and then called time.
That left Zimbabwe facing a tricky 90 minutes and a massive deficit. Stuart Matsikenyeri began more solidly than he has often done, but it did him little good. After surviving confident lbw appeals from Chaminda Vaas to the second and third balls of the innings, he made 14 off 40 balls before Nuwan Zoysa slanted a ball across him and had him caught at the wicket (22 for 1). Shortly before the close, Mark Vermeulen fell in the same way as he had done in the first innings, driving Zoysa loosely to mid-off for 6 (40 for 2). Brendan Taylor, after a cautious start, decided to go down fighting, swinging Muttiah Muralitharan high over midwicket for six and ended unbeaten on 19.
As for Muralitharan, he has been virtually anonymous in this match, Still troubled by a combination of a bruised finger, scrutiny by the ICC, and announcements made by his own board, he spent most of his nine-over spell toying with legbreaks. But he could probably switch to left-arm seam and Sri Lanka would still win at a canter.