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The Report by Madushka Balasuriya
Zimbabwe 62 for 1 (Masvaure 26*, Fernando 1-9) and 406 (Williams 107, Raza 72, Embuldeniya 4-182) lead Sri Lanka 293 (Mathews 64, Raza 7-113) by 175 runs
Prince Masvaure and Regis Chakabva took Zimbabwe comfortably through to stumps on the third day, 175 runs ahead in their second innings with nine wickets in hand. This, after Sikandar Raza had recorded the second-best bowling figures in a Test innings by a Zimbabwean to put the hosts in total control of second Test in Harare.
Craig Ervine, who had opened in the absence of the injured Kevin Kasuza, was the only wicket to fall in the final session before rain brought a premature close to a day that had been completely dominated by the hosts - aside from an hour or so in the morning.
The day largely belonged to Raza, whose 7 for 113 are now the best Test bowling figures in an innings by a Zimbabwean since Paul Strang picked up 8 for 109 against New Zealand 20 years ago. It also accounts for nearly a quarter of his Test scalps.
The only sombre note was the concussion suffered by Kasuza, who was hit on the helmet when fielding at short leg for the second time in as many games. It was later confirmed that he suffered a mild concussion, with Timycen Maruma coming in as a concussion substitute. It was the ricochet of Kasuza's helmet though that had given Zimbabwe, and Raza, the first breakthrough of the day. Kusal Mendis' full-blooded pull caught Kasuza at short leg flush on the helmet, with the ball subsequently looping to the man at short fine leg.
Raza struck again in his next over when Dinesh Chandimal, who had been looking to attack during his short stay, offered a straightforward return catch.
Angelo Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva would then proceed to put on an 84-run stand in a little under 22 overs before Raza struck again, this time on the stroke of lunch. Dhananjaya played on to his stumps after attempting to pull a shorter delivery that kept low.
At that point, Zimbabwe would have been content with how the day had panned out, but shortly after the break they would be ecstatic. Raza would strike in his first over after lunch as Niroshan Dickwella was trapped lbw attempting to sweep.
Raza then had Suranga Lakmal chipping an easy catch to mid-on. Later he returned to dismiss Embuldeniya, who was caught brilliantly at mid-off by Brian Mudzinganyama, who was fielding for the injured Kasuza.
That would be the last of Raza's scalps, though it was also down to the unsung work done by Zimbabwe's seamers. Indeed, the most important wicket of the day, that of Angelo Mathews, was provided by seamer Carl Mumba, who had Sri Lanka's most senior batsman strangled down the leg side for 64. It was just a reward for Zimbabwe's seam attack that had toiled fruitlessly all day until then.
It could have been worse too for the visitors had it not been for Vishwa Fernando, who strung together - first a 24-run ninth-wicket partnership with Lasith Embuldeniya, and then a 25-run stand for the final wicket with Lahiru Kumara to bring the eventual deficit down to a slightly more tolerable 113.
Most of the morning session too had been a case of feast and famine for the Sri Lankan batsmen, with long periods of diligent probing outside off stump punctuated by the odd boundary. Aside from when Mathews and Dhananjaya were batting, Sri Lanka were rarely allowed to break free by the likes of Donald Tiripano and Victor Nyauchi.
But while Raza will rightfully take most of the plaudits, Sri Lanka's new batting coach Grant Flower would have been mortified by the nature of some of the dismissals. Apart from Kusal Mendis, who could count himself a touch unfortunate at the deflection that led to his dismissal, every other Sri Lankan wicket was somewhat avoidable.
That is not to take away from Zimbabwe's bowlers though, who would argue that such mistakes were coerced by the disciplined lines and lengths their seamers persevered with. Sri Lanka could also be criticised for not being more aggressive, something Zimbabwe's batsmen had shown could be a useful strategy earlier in the game.
Have teams ever tied two consecutive matches before as New Zealand and India did?
Also: was Sikandar Raza the first Zimbabwe bowler to take seven wickets in a Test innings?
Kusal Mendis ton helps Sri Lanka secure draw and seal series 1-0
Zimbabwe's bowling lacked the necessary killer instinct to take ten wickets on the final day
Brendan Taylor hits fifty before rain diminishes Zimbabwe's chances of victory
The hosts took their lead to 354 but rain allowed only 5.3 overs in the final session
Sikandar Raza's seven-for puts Zimbabwe in control
Sri Lanka concede 113-run first-innings lead after being dismissed for 293