First Test Match

Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka 1999-2000

At Bulawayo, November 18, 19, 20, 21, 22. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: G. B. Brent; S. I. de Saram, T. M. Dilshan, I. S. Gallage. Zimbabwe were glad to play at Bulawayo after their recent experiences against Australia and South Africa on bowler-friendly pitches in Harare. The Queens Sports Club pitch favoured batsmen, though giving a little help to bowlers prepared to work hard, and Sri Lanka appeared to have misinterpreted its grass covering when they put Zimbabwe in. Their innings was built around a determined stand of 99 between Goodwin and Andy Flower, after the earlier batsmen had made a start but failed to build on it. Flower, eager to monopolise the strike because of his team's long tail, threw away the chance of a century, but a lusty innings from Strang, in his usual block-and-bang style, took the total close to 300 before he was last out to Wickremasinghe, who returned career-best figures of six for 60.

Sri Lanka's reply revolved around Atapattu, who became only the second Sri Lankan to carry his bat in Test cricket, after Sidath Wettimuny against New Zealand in 1982-83. Jayasuriya looked in deceptively good form in their opening stand of 85, but thereafter only Kaluwitharana and the patient de Saram lent significant support as the persistent Zimbabwe bowlers worked their way down the order. Atapattu played a percentage game throughout, content to wait for the bad ball and accumulate steadily. The Zimbabweans were convinced they should have won an lbw decision against him just after he reached his fifty, but he gave no actual chances while batting for ten hours 27 minutes, during which he faced 437 balls and hit 24 fours. His unbeaten 216 was his second double-century against Zimbabwe.

Only half a day's play was possible on the third day before a torrential downpour enveloped the ground, and play began an hour late on the fourth, when Sri Lanka's main aim seemed to be continued accumulation rather than quick runs. Rain clouds were building up again by the time Zimbabwe began their second innings, shortly after lunch, but the first interruption was not caused by the weather. In the first over, Grant Flower glanced the new ball to the fine-leg boundary, where it rolled into a hole filled with water on the building site of the new media centre and had to be replaced.

Flower, putting behind him the loss of two partners early on, looked set for his first Test fifty of the season before being given out, somewhat unluckily, caught at short leg. Then came an intriguing battle between Muralitharan and the left-handers, Johnson and Andy Flower. Johnson, in particular, struggled, spending 72 minutes on nine. Ultimately, Muralitharan changed his tactics and tossed the ball up more, which the batsman appreciated to the tune of three fours in one over and, later, a six over long-on. He had just reached a fine fifty in the final session when the light deteriorated and the players came off. Another downpour that evening and prolonged rain the following morning left areas of the ground waterlogged, making play impossible on the final day.

© John Wisden & Co