Third Test Match

Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka 1999-2000

At Harare, December 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: R. W. Price. For the first time in the season, Zimbabwe got themselves on level terms in a Test match. They conceded a lead of only 13 to Sri Lanka on first innings and, batting a second time on a pitch still assisting the seam bowlers, were 35 runs ahead with eight wickets standing when rain washed out the fourth day. This left Sri Lanka the only team with enough time for a possible victory, and all Zimbabwe could do was ensure a draw.

Zimbabwe selected their side entirely with a view to winning. The most interesting change was the unexpected recall of the 36-year-old Brandes, for his first Test since the England tour of 1996-97, and the move was an undoubted success, with his seam bowling inspiring the home side after another disappointing batting performance. Of the other changes, Craig Wishart failed to fulfil his role of aggressive opener, through he did have to bat when the pitch was at its trickiest, while Raymond Price, nephew of international golfer Nick Price, had little opportunity to display his left-arm spin bowling in his first Test. Sri Lanka replaced the injured Zoysa with Pushpakumara, who had taken seven for 116 in the Third Test here on the previous tour and now, along with Vaas, exploited the helpful conditions superbly; they took all but one of Zimbabwe's first-innings wickets. Only Johnson and Whittall survived for long against the moving ball, adding 61 for the sixth wicket, and it took some unorthodox hitting by Strang on the second morning to lift the total beyond 200.

Olonga and Brandes soon had the tourists in similar trouble, with Atapattu adjudged caught at second slip off a lifting delivery in the first over, and Jayawardene brilliantly taken at short leg. Jayasuriya, having moved himself down two places after a poor Second Test, was still required early at the crease and failed again, becoming Andy Flower's 100th dismissal in 39 Tests. Earlier, Flower had been the first to score 2,500 Test runs for Zimbabwe. Dilshan, driving superbly but riskily for 37 in 42 balls, and de Saram played useful innings, but the pillar was undoubtedly Arnold, who emulated Atapattu in the First Test by carrying his bat through a Test innings. Restrained but determined, he reached his century, and also put Sri Lanka ahead, with his last partner, Muralitharan, at the crease. All told, he faced 243 balls and hit 14 fours in six and a quarter hours.

Zimbabwe batted again in humid conditions and lost both openers before bad light stopped play midway through the third afternoon. The match was in an interesting position, considering Sri Lanka would have to bat last. But once the fourth day was lost, it was unrealistic to expect Zimbabwe to set Sri Lanka a target. On a pitch damp in patches, and with the bounce and movement unreliable, Andy Flower played another innings of fine judgment and determination to make sure his team avoided any possibility of another defeat in Harare's fourth Test match in two months.

© John Wisden & Co