First Test

Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe

At Sinhalese Sports Club, Colombo, December 27, 28, 29, 31. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 166 runs. Toss: Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe suffered their first blow before the match when their captain, Murphy, decided to stand down after returning prematurely from a finger injury. Carlisle resumed the captaincy, but there was no genuine spinner to replace Murphy. Zimbabwe's best chance seemed to be to bowl first on the Sinhalese pitch, which had a reputation for encouraging fast bowlers on the first morning.

But the plan backfired when the pitch turned out to be bone dry, and the ball hardly wobbled. After Atapattu and Jayasuriya enjoyed early reprieves, Zimbabwe's seam quartet switched to a tedious policy of containment, spearing the ball wide of off stump. Jayasuriya responded with an uncharacteristically watchful 92, occupying four hours, and Sri Lanka had pottered to 211 for three when bad light ended play in the 74th over. Next day, the bowlers lost their discipline: Sri Lanka plundered 127 runs in the first session and 123 in the second. Sangakkara, who began the morning on 62, struck seven fours to complete his century in 30 balls; in all, his stylish 128 featured 22 fours and a six. When he was fifth out at 320, to a juggling slip catch, Samaraweera took over. He helped Sri Lanka add 266 at a run a minute for the next two wickets, which took them past 500 for the first time against Zimbabwe. Tillekeratne just missed his own hundred, Vaas reached a first-class career-best 74, and Samaraweera was 123 not out off 166 balls when Jayasuriya finally declared.

By contrast, no Zimbabwean managed a fifty in either innings. Their reply had an unhappy start when the teenaged Masakadza was caught at third slip in the fourth over before bad light intervened again. On the third day, they were bowled out inside 80 overs, with only Andy Flower approaching two hours at the crease. Following on with a massive deficit of 402, Zimbabwe closed at 64 for two before a rest day, the first in Tests since West Indies and India paused for Good Friday at Bridgetown in 1997. The cause this time was a full moon, observed as a poya day by Buddhists. On resumption, Zimbabwe improved their performance a little, thanks to a three-hour innings from Friend, the night-watchman. Rain cost an hour on the fourth afternoon, but it merely delayed Sri Lanka's sixth successive Test victory, which came after tea. The margin, an innings and 166 runs, was then Sri Lanka's biggest in their 119 Tests, improving on an innings and 137 against Bangladesh in September. Murali finished with eight wickets in the match, which took him to 80 in 12 Tests in 2001; only Dennis Lillee, with 85 from 13 Tests in 1981, had collected more in a calendar year.

Man of the Match: K. C. Sangakkara.

Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 211-3 (Sangakkara 62, Arnold 4); Second day, Zimbabwe 14-1 (Gripper 4, Carlisle 6); Third day, Zimbabwe 64-2 (Carlisle 22, Friend 0).

© John Wisden & Co