The Test and ODI series losses to South Africa could be put down to unfamiliarity with conditions. The Test loss to Bangladesh could plausibly be explained by Bangladesh's rise. The group-stage exit at the Champions Trophy was not completely unexpected either. But a big home defeat to the 11th ranked side, who had lost to Scotland earlier in the month, is more difficult to explain. It appears the most compelling sign yet that Sri Lanka are a waning force in world cricket, thanks in no small part to the appalling state of cricket administration this decade.
While Sri Lanka lapsed into familiar mistakes at Galle - dropping catches, and failing to take wickets through the middle overs - Zimbabwe pounced on the errors fearlessly. Solomon Mire, who had hit only three fifties in 17 previous innings, clubbed wayward bowling through the leg side while Sean Williams filched singles and twos. The unbroken 102-run stand for the fifth wicket between Malcolm Waller and Sikander Raza was almost more incredible, so assured was that pair as they mowed Sri Lanka down.
Neither side was impressive on the bowling front, with only nine wickets falling in 97.4 overs, but Akila Dananjaya sparked a little excitement in his early overs, and Zimbabwe's quicks were disciplined with the new ball and at the death. Mire has said his team was especially pleased to have kept Sri Lanka to 316, when at one stage, 350 was a possibility. With Sri Lanka's attack in flux, the visitors may go into the second game with the more settled bowling unit.
Late news also broke on Saturday that Sri Lanka will be further depleted for this match. Both Lasith Malinga and Kusal Mendis have caught the flu, and are unlikely to be available. Lakshan Sandakan, who was ill and unavailable for the first match, comes back into contention however.
Sri Lanka LLWLW (completed matches, most recent first) Zimbabwe WWLLW
In the spotlight
For so long a batsman whose occasional dreamy, big innings were followed by a long series of modest scores, Upul Tharanga seems to have found a little consistency in 2017. So far this year, he averages 49.33 in ten innings, and has made four 50-plus scores in his last seven outings. Where in the past, he has been most comfortable batting in the slipstream of a more aggressive player - typically Sanath Jayasuriya or TM Dilshan - Tharanga has recently developed the resolve to lead the charge on the opposition himself, to an extent. With Dinesh Chandimal out of the XI, Tharanga may be required for a longer stint in the middle order now, and as one of the leaders of this side, will be expected to continue contributing frequently.
Mire's excellent 112 got a lot of love on Friday, but Sikandar Raza's poised 67 not out off 56 balls was almost as impressive, for the effect his batting had on the opposition. Though Sri Lanka appeared frustrated by Mire, it was when Raza batted that they seemed completely at a loss as to how to stop Zimbabwe's charge. Raza struck gaps with precision, found the boundary when required, and when Zimbabwe had moved well ahead in the game, scaled back the ambition and propelled his team forward with a spate of risk-free singles and twos. His innings was the perfect finish to what had been a textbook chase. Sri Lanka will now know there is depth to this Zimbabwe batting order, with men such as Raza and Waller at no. 5 and 6.
Malinga has been ruled out by illness which means Dushmantha Chameera is in line for his first international match since December 2016. In place of the unwell players, which now includes Mendis, Sri Lanka have drafted in seamer Suranga Lakmal and batsman Chamara Kapugedara. Sandakan is likely to play the next game in place of Amila Aponso who had an indifferent first match.
Zimbabwe are unlikely to tamper with a winning combination, though if anyone's place is vulnerable, it is that of Donald Tiripano, who conceded runs at 7.5 an over on Friday.
Zimbabwe (possible): 1 Solomon Mire, 2 Hamilton Masakadza, 3 Craig Ervine, 4 Sean Williams, 5 Sikander Raza, 6 Ryan Burl, 7 Peter Moor (wk), 8 Malcolm Waller, 9 Graeme Cremer (capt), 10 Tendai Chatara, 11 Chris Mpofu/Donald Tiripano
Pitch and conditions
Any turn that is likely to be present on the surface is likely to be of the slow variety, and as such, poses little threat for the batsmen. There is a chance of afternoon thunderstorms in Galle.
Stats and trivia
Zimbabwe's victory was their first against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka, in any format.
Solomon Mire needs 25 runs to reach 500 runs in ODIs. His highest score before the 112 was 54, against Afghanistan, in Harare.
Upul Tharanga completed 6000 ODI runs in the previous match, becoming the eighth Sri Lanka batsman to the milestone.
"The confidence will be huge with this win. There is a bit more belief in the team." Zimbabwe batsman Solomon Mire on the good vibes a victory brings
"It's in the mindset. One day of skill work won't help you. We need to have a shift in mindset to stop runs and take those catches." Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews on how to redress falling fielding standards