First Test

Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe 1997-1998

At Kandy, January 7, 8, 9, 10, 11. Sri Lanka won by eight wickets. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debut: M. W. Goodwin.

Off-spinner Muralitharan returned what were then the best match figures by a Sri Lankan bowler in Test cricket - 12 for 117 - to dismiss Zimbabwe for 140 and 338. Combined with a double-century from Atapattu, that was quite enough to give Sri Lanka a 1-0 lead in the short series. It was their first victory in 12 Tests since they beat Zimbabwe on the previous tour in September 1996.

Zimbabwe had been kept on the field until the final session of the second day, by which time Sri Lanka had taken full advantage of first lease of a pitch expected to help the spinners later in the match. The innings began shakily: Jayasuriya and Mahanama, who had shared a stand of 576 against India in August, both fell in single figures during Streak's opening spell.

But de Silva then joined Atapattu to share a third-wicket stand of 140. De Silva, scorer of seven Test centuries and 1,220 runs in 1997, continued his brilliant progress with an impeccable 75 before mistiming a drive off leg-spinner Huckle. Atapattu had scored his maiden Test century in India seven weeks earlier; now he followed it with a double-hundred in his 13th Test. Batting stylishly and playing strokes straight out of the textbook, he compiled an elegant 223, in 597 minutes and 446 balls, with one six and 29 fours. His only blemish was on 217, when wicket-keeper Andy Flower failed to stump him off Paul Strang. By then, Sri Lanka were well on their way towards a hefty total. Atapattu's was the first double-century made at the Asgiriya Stadium in a Test - the previous highest score was 143 not out by Australia's David Hookes in 1982-83.

Zimbabwe finished the second day at 46 for two, losing Grant Flower and debutant Murray Goodwin cheaply. Next day the slide continued. Only two batsmen made it into double figures: Rennie, who stayed 281 minutes for just 53, and Paul Strang, with 35. Zimbabwe were bowled out for 140, shortly after tea on the third day, as Muralitharan, with his tenth five-wicket haul in Tests, and his fellow-spinner Silva ran through the batting.

Forced to follow on, 329 runs in arrears, Zimbabwe put up sterner resistance. They batted throughout the fourth day, with the fightback being led by 25-year-old Goodwin, who stroked a fine 70 in 191 minutes, and Andy Flower, who batted four hours for 67 but hit only one boundary. The innings was finally terminated in the first hour of the fifth morning. Muralitharan ended up with seven for 94, his best Test figures, giving him 12 in the match. That beat the previous best Test return by a Sri Lankan, ten for 90 by Chaminda Vaas against New Zealand at Napier in 1994-95.

Left with the formality of scoring ten runs for victory, Sri Lanka were mildly embarrassed to lose Jayasuriya and Mahanama again to Streak - for ducks this time - in the first over. But./ fittingly, Atapattu and de Silva completed the win in the second.

Man of the Match: M. Muralitharan.

© John Wisden & Co