April 26, 2000

Sri Lanka misses an opportunity to put pressure on the Zimbabweans

Zimbabwe came into day three of this unofficial test match with a plan. A plan as simple and timeless as any to have been developed in the history of cricket: To restrict the scoring rate through defensive field placings and a leg stump line so as to ensure that they had to bat for as little time as possible.

Quite inexplicably they totally outmaneuvered the Sri Lankans in the morning session. By restricting the visitors to 58 runs in 32 overs they ensured that they only had to bat for five overs in the evening, rather than the 30 that that had looked probable last night. By doing so they well have saved the match. By the close Zimbabwe had scored 8 without loss after dismissing the Sri Lankans for 474.

Zimbabwe's strategy was quite obvious from before the start of play. Even during the practice beforehand the spinners could watched grooving their leg-side line. When Raymond Price and birthday boy, Daniel Peacock, started an uninterrupted morning spell, they immediately started propelling the ball towards or outside the batsmen's legs. Desperately keen to impress the selectors, the batsmen, Dilshan (37) and Hewage (135), were not prepared to take the risks necessary to counter such a policy. Apart from two solitary boundaries from Dilshan in the morning session the batsmen were quite conten to pick up the occasional leg bye and single from the sweep.

Following some harsh words from an unimpressed management, the batsmen tried to raise the tempo after lunch. However the defensive approach of the preceding two hours had weighed down the normally nimble footed Dilshan. Failing to move his feet whilst trying an expansive drive he was consequently bowled by Daniel Peacock in the 105 over of the innings.

Four minutes later Indika De Saram (1), another player keen to impress the selectors, was caught down the leg-side of the bowling of Raymond Price. This brought to the crease the inform Charmara Silva (38) who was quickly into his stride. Giving some of his colleagues a lesson in how to counter negative bowling he mixed deft deflections with nimble use of his feet. Unfortunately for his side he attempted one two many reverse sweeps and well caught by replacement wicket keeper, Neil Ferreira, ending a forth wicket partnership of 58.

The Zimbabwean's now started to reap the rewards of their earlier policy of containment. Pradeep Hewage's marathon innings finally came to an end 10 balls after the dismissal of Charmara Silva, when he top edged a sweep and was well caught by diving Greg Lamb at short fine leg. Then just prior to tea the Sri Lankan captain, Thilan Samaraweera (13), pulled a ball tamely into the lap of Andy Blignaut at square leg.

Kaushalya Weereratne (33) and Prassana Jawardena (22) started well after tea, providing rich entertainment for the sparse crowd, they increased the tempo of the innings. Prepared to run twos which previously would have been singles and happy to use their feet to loft the ball into the vacant spaces they batted like the others should have. Weerreatne, nicknamed the Sri Lankan `Klusner', was particularly impressive, hitting four fours and a massive six into the second tier of the pavilion.

However Prasanna Jayawardena innings was ended when he was run out by Blignaut and Weereratne was caught behind off the bowling of Peacock. Celebrating his Birthday today Peacock also accounted for Gallage (14) before last man, Malinga Bandara, was run out by half a pitch.

When the Zimbabwean return to their hotel tonight two members of the paty may struggle to make it to dinner. Andy Peacock (49-11-119-3) and Raymond Price (57-9-171-5) bowled Herculean spells today. Certain to be a little sore from their day's labour tomorrow they will be demanding that the top order make sure they don't have to bat.