Second Test

Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka

Special Correspondent

At Bulawayo, May 14, 15, 16, 17, 2004. Sri Lanka won by an innings and 254 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: T. Mupariwa.

The First Test showed up the inability of Zimbabwe's reserves to compete at international level; this was even worse. For the second match running, the Zimbabweans suffered the heaviest defeat in their Test history, and this time they managed just three Sri Lankan wickets.

Atapattu again put Zimbabwe in on a pitch even better for batting than the one in Harare. Vermeulen, the only contracted white player not to join the dissidents, was included, having finally been declared fit after a head injury in the one-day series in Australia, but he contributed little. Local seamer Tawanda Mupariwa made his debut, a remarkable turnaround after he had been omitted from the Under-19 World Cup team three months earlier. They replaced Mahwire, whose bowling action had been reported to the ICC after the First Test, and Utseya, who had injured his shoulder. So bare was the cupboard that the only slow bowler at a ground reputed to favour them was part-time spinner Matsikenyeri.

Matsikenyeri batted like a millionaire on the first morning, hitting 45 off 64 balls, while Ebrahim put his head down and grafted for 70 in his role as sheet-anchor. But Taibu and Maregwede were cut off in their prime, and Zimbabwe just failed to last the day.

The second day was one for records, none favourable to Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka amassed 425 runs for a single wicket. The bowlers did at least carry out their plan against Jayasuriya, keeping him quiet so that his 48 took 95 balls, but they had no answer to Atapattu or Sangakkara, who piled up 438, the sixth-highest stand for any Test wicket. Shortly before the close, Atapattu reached his sixth Test double-century, his third against Zimbabwe and his second in two Tests on this ground. Sangakkara followed him past 200 next day, and both must have had their eyes on 300 or more. Against such weak opposition, it was perhaps a mercy that neither achieved the coveted landmark. Several hard chances were missed in the field before Atapattu, trying to push a single for his 250, edged to the keeper. He had batted eight hours 36 minutes, and struck 36 fours and a six in 324 balls.

After such a stand, Mahela Jayawardene must have felt like a bear aroused from hibernation as he emerged to bat, but he settled down for a century of his own, with Atapattu delaying his declaration until it was completed. And Brian Lara, who had made 400 not out a month earlier, could breathe again when Sangakkara, who had just beaten the ground record, Dave Houghton's 266 against Sri Lanka in the first Test at Queens Sports Club almost ten years earlier, was well held by the diving Taibu. Sangakkara's 270 occupied seven hours 48 minutes and 365 balls; like Atapattu, he had 36 fours, but he hit a second six. There was one more unwelcome record: it was the first time six bowlers had conceded a century apiece in a Test innings. Taibu did not bowl in this match, but caught all three batsmen who were out.

This time Sri Lanka's lead was 485, and only the pursuit of personal milestones had prevented another three-day victory. A promising 61 by Taylor, studded with handsome off-side strokes, was the fourth day's main feature, Ebrahim again batted well and Panyangara hit merrily at the end. Zimbabwe might have done worse had Muralitharan not been handicapped by a bruised spinning finger - he bowled spells of genuine legbreaks at times - but another total mismatch finally persuaded the ICC that something had to be done to preserve the integrity of Test cricket.

Man of the Match: K. C. Sangakkara. Man of the Series: M. S. Atapattu

© John Wisden & Co