Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, Only Test, Colombo July 13, 2017

Can confident Zimbabwe topple Chandimal's Sri Lanka?

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Match facts

July 14-18, 2017
Start time 1000 local (0430 GMT)

Big picture

When last these teams met, Zimbabwe almost survived in the first game, but were rolled over in the second, taking Sri Lanka's Test-match winning streak to five. The world has changed dramatically since. Heading into this match at Khettarama, the hosts have a new captain, and new-ish head coach, and a startling dearth of confidence. As was the case with the ODI series, this spells opportunity for Zimbabwe.

Opportunity, because Sri Lanka will have only three days to recover from one of the most dispiriting losses in their recent history. Opportunity, because Zimbabwe, though they haven't played Tests since last November, have batsmen in form, a better set of fielders (on recent evidence), and are clearly the happier outfit in this tour.

The real test will be for Zimbabwe's bowlers. Though they triumphed in the ODIs, they took only 24 wickets compared to Sri Lanka's 35, and never bowled the opposition out. Also, in last year's Tests in Harare, Sri Lanka had scored 500 in each first innings, and controlled both matches from virtually the first day onwards. Graeme Cremer and his cohort of allrounders offer Zimbabwe a serviceable spin-bowling contingent, but the fast bowlers such as Tendai Chatara may have to contribute with early wickets - and he often did in the ODIs - to give their side a chance.

In addition to adjusting to a new leader, Sri Lanka may also do well to rediscover the old, infectious joy that once defined their cricket, but has been in short supply in recent months.

That SLC thought this would be a walkover tour is reflected in the packed schedule - three ODIs and a Test will be played in the space of 13 days. The reality is that Sri Lanka find themselves scrambling to avoid slipping on another banana skin, while Zimbabwe smell their first potential upset since 2013, when they defeated Pakistan at home.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LWLLL (completed matches, most recent first)
Zimbabwe LLLL

The triumph in the one-day series has put Zimbabwe in a good frame of mind © AFP

In the spotlight

While in ODIs, Dinesh Chandimal's form has been patchy, in Tests, he has been a markedly improved batsman. While once a flasher only capable of playing at a rapid tempo, Chandimal's two most-recent hundreds - against Australia at the SSC and against Bangladesh at P Sara - were hard fought and wrung out of difficult circumstances. It is partly that new determination that has seen him promoted to the captaincy now, and a quality he will require plenty of in this Test, as he attempts to inspire a team in significant flux.

On the opposite side, stands Graeme Cremer who in the ODIs made confident statements before the deciding game, then backed it up with brave performances with bat and ball. Whether Zimbabwe will have a realistic chance of victory at Khettarama may pivot upon the quality of his legspin. The pitch may provide assistance to the quicks to begin with, but usually holds its greatest rewards for the slow bowlers. Cremer has also had success against Sri Lanka in Tests, taking 11 wickets in that series last year.

Team news

Sri Lanka have decisions to make on the bowling front. Rangana Herath is certain to play, and Suranga Lakmal is likely. Lahiru Kumara may be the preferred second seamer, but it is unclear whether they will favour the experience of Dilruwan Perera for the role of second spinner, or if they will go with the more aggressive Lakshan Sandakan.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Upul Tharanga, 2 Dimuth Karunaratne, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt.), 5 Angelo Mathews, 6 Asela Gunaratne, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Rangana Herath, 10 Suranga Lakmal, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Zimbabwe are likely to choose Chatara in their attack, given his success in the ODIs. Sikandar Raza may also earn a place in the XI on form. Perhaps to Sri Lanka's relief, Solomon Mire is not in the Test side. Regis Chakabva may partner Hamilton Masakadza at the top of the order, and it is possible Tarisai Musakanda will debut, at No. 3.

Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Regis Chakabva, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Tarisai Musakanda, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams, 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Malcolm Waller, 8 Peter Moor (wk), 9 Graeme Cremer (capt.), 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Donald Tiripano

Pitch and conditions

There was a light cover of grass on the pitch on the eve of the match, which suggests there will be assistance for the seamers early on. However, rare is the Khettarama surface that doesn't become spin-friendly eventually. There have been periodic showers in Colombo over the past week, and more of the same is expected during the Test.

Stats and trivia

  • Dinesh Chandimal becomes Sri Lanka's 15th Test captain. In the past, he has led Sri Lanka's limited-overs teams, as well as captaining the Under-19 side in his senior school year.
  • This is Zimbabwe's first Test in Sri Lanka since January 2002. In 17 Tests between the two sides, Zimbabwe have lost 12 without ever winning a game.
  • This is Zimbabwe's first away Test since 2014, when they had lost 0-2 in Bangladesh.

Quotes

"More than anything, we have the self-belief that we can actually push Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, which is big for us. We have the potential to score the runs as well as take wickets. Confidence is what we will take into the Test match most."

Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer on the effect the ODI triumph has had

"As a player and a captain I will sacrifice my time and my effort to make sure Sri Lanka reclaims a good place in world cricket. I need a little time for that. I am hopeful that with the players that I have, I can take Sri Lankan cricket to where it used to be."

New captain Dinesh Chandimal is hoping to change his team's present trajectory

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Bryce on July 14, 2017, 10:31 GMT

    I will be surprised if Zimbabwe can bowl any test side out

  • ssarat6156488 on July 14, 2017, 5:48 GMT

    1.upul thranga2.d.karunaratna3.k.mendis4.anjelo mathews5.roshan silva6.d.silva7.d.karunaratna8.s.lakmal9.r.herath10.l.sandakan11.v.fernando12.r.chandragupta13.d.peeera14.m.udwate15.l.kumara16.n.pradeep.dinesh chandimal as wk and test captain please allow him only in test and help in building a stable test team

  • castro6065533 on July 14, 2017, 3:12 GMT

    This is the most exciting Zimbabwe team in years, they seem to have a genuine chance of winning. Ultimately Herath will be a huge threat as always, his guile and experience will be hard to counter.

  • cluelessjan1 on July 14, 2017, 2:49 GMT

    hope all sl bowlers contribute. its time for sl not to be too dependent on sir herath.

  • mganga7126683 on July 14, 2017, 2:41 GMT

    some records are meant to be broken here...eg..highest total in test cricket...lowest total in test cricket...2nd Sri Lankan to score a double century on debut....most 50 scores in an innings...Sri Lanka's 4th triple centurion...

  • Shaun on July 14, 2017, 1:41 GMT

    betting vs batting,International couches vs Local coaches, Money vs Meaning of happiness,there is a dark hand is moving above sri lankan cricket but i am glad to see that fans are fighting against this,we saw genuine three fast bowlers were forced to play in sri lanka first time in spinning condition,we saw our best two spinners didn't play in one match together,we saw Malinda pushpakumara,Saddera ,Roshen silva were put mentally down so badly ,our sri lankan team is already put mentally down by harsh words and decisions,This is like end scene of gladiator movie,players are playing now with lot of wounds and sorrows,they need our support to win this mental battle,we know our cricketers are talented ,let them to play their own game,that small trust is enough to over come this issue,Mr.Sumithipala and board do not think your guys are running the show,your show is coming to end.

  • Vaki on July 14, 2017, 0:56 GMT

    Chari Hami Musakanda Ervine Williams Raza M. Waller Regis (wk) Cremer N. Waller Chatara

  • Chatty on July 14, 2017, 0:10 GMT

    The big difference in home tests is the bowling attack. The spin attack when playing at home is quite formidable. I would be very surprised if Zim could have the same success in tests. But, one never knows. I expect some big runs to come from Mathews.

  • amindh6043107 on July 14, 2017, 0:09 GMT

    @Cricuser , one loss in the WC qualifier could mean that Sl find themselves out if the WC. Its realistic to lose to afg, wi, ire and of course zim . Sl really dont want to be in a situation were one loss puts them out of the WC. Also shows what a raw deal associates get where 1 bad game can dash all their hopes

  • Alexander on July 13, 2017, 23:59 GMT

    I believe Zimbabwe can win or draw this match. I have had a long hard think about the team they should pick and have come up with the following: 1) Hamilton Masakadza, 2) Tarisai Musakanda (good from in the ODI's and usually bats at number 3, 3) Ryan Burl (excellent First Class record batting at number 3), 4) Craig Ervine, 5) Sean Williams, 6) Sikandar Raza, 7) Peter Moor (wk), 8) Graeme Cremer (c), 9) Tendai Chatara, 10) Carl Mumba (great potential and needs to be given an extended go), 11) Christopher Mpofu (experienced and more dangerous than Tiripano). I think that is it unfair to Chakabva that he has to open in Tests, let him bat down the order and give Musakanda and Burl a chance up the top. Malcolm Waller narrowly misses out because in Test Matches you need 4 full time bowlers to try and bowl the other team out. This team is building towards something special!!

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