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May 20, 2000
With the senior side currently in such dire straights , the Zimbabwean selectors are sure to watching carefully the progress of the `A' team in Sri Lanka. Unfortunately there continues to be little good news to report after yet another loss on this disappointing tour. Zimbabwe `A' losing the second unofficial one-day international by 110 runs at De Soysa Stadium, Moratuwa.
There certainly don't appear to be any short-term solutions available to Zimbabwe's chronic lack of penetrative bowlers. Zimbabwe were forced to use eight bowlers in this match. With the exception of Angus Mackay and Andy Blignaut, in his early overs, they were woefully ineffective on a pitch that was low in bounce and variable in pace and conceded 297 from their 50 overs.
In reply the batsmen never looked capable of reaching such a tough target. Losing regular wickets they quickly fell behind the run-rate and were eventually bowled out for 187 in 46.4 overs. The only batsmen to establish himself, and indeed the only Zimbabwean batsmen capable of threatening such a large total, was Craig Wishart (67).Unfortunately, with the brief exception of Andy Blignaut (30), who threw his wicket away with a ghastly reverse pull/sweep, no-one was able to accompany him.
Whilst the Zimbabwean's will rightly be disappointed they can take consolation from the fact they were on the receiving end of a quite astonishing innings from Kumar Sangakkara (156*). Sri Lanka `A's left handed wicket keeper smashed the Zimbabwean bowlers to all corners of this stadium, scoring 56 runs from his last 26 deliveries.
Primarily responsible for Sri Lanka scoring 98 runs in the last ten overs he appeared to reach a state of batting nirvana after reaching his century in the 43rd over. So high was his confidence and so quick was his eye, that he appeared able to dispatch the bowlers at will. Andy Blignaut suffered the most from his withering blade, conceding 39 runs from his last 3 overs.
It was one of those innings in which you watch with ever increasing incredibility, astonished that it is humanely possible to perennially hit the ball so cleanly and place it so accurately. Sangakkara is sure to remember the innings as the time when he momentarily mastered the art of batting.
Sangakkara was well supported by Indika de Saram (54), with whom he shared a 138 run partnership for the third wicket, and Thilan Sammarweera (35), whom joined with him for the final assault to put on an entertaining 76 runs for the fifth wicket.
The day started well for visitors despite losing the toss being put into the field. The Zimbabwean's would have apparently fielded anyway because they prefer chasing and wanted to exploit any residue moisture from yesterday's rain.
Sri Lanka struggled in the opening 15 overs as both Angus Mackay and Andy Blignaut moved the ball in the air and off the pitch. What's more they bowled relatively accurately and were rewarded with two early wickets, including the prized wicket of Avishka Gunawardena (9).
Shantha Kalavitigoda was the first to depart, bowled off his inside edge in Blignaut's second over. Five balls later Avishka Gunawardena, who had already hit two boundaries, smashed a half volley straight to Angus Mackay at mid-on. You get nothing for free in life and Mackay was forced to pay a painful price for the catch: a spilt nail and a badly bruised finger.
The Zimbabwean's trouble started after the first drinks rate as the openers were replaced by the support bowlers. The regular spinners, Daniel Peacock and Raymond Price, bowled badly for the first time on this tour and thus the visitors were forced to rely on the part-time support bowling of Gavin Rennie, Craig Wishart, Dion Ebrahim and Mark Vermeulen.
Neither of the bowlers threatened Sangakkara and Indika de Saram who having played themselves started to raise the tempo and to build the momentum that culminated in such an astonishing lat ten overs.
Zimbabwe now face the ignominy of not winning a match on this tour. They have one final chance on Monday at NCC grounds, Colombo.
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