In a cauldron of hazy sunshine, frenzied appealing and real tension at Welegadera Stadium in Kurunegala, Zimbabwe just held on for a draw in this the first of three unofficial test matches. Starrting the day 160 runs in arrears with ten wickets remaining, they survived to the close, finishing on 174 for 8.
When the Sri Lankan's look back over the match they will be able to clearly identify yesterday morning as the time they wasted an opportunity to win in this match. During that period of play the needs of the team took secondary place to the personal desires of the batsmen. Desperate to impress the selectors and thus reluctant to take the necessary risks they scored only 58 runs in the session. The end result of this was that the declaration was delayed and Zimbabwe only faced five overs in the evening.
For most of the day it looked as if the match was destined for a draw. However the last session saw the game come alight as the Sri Lankan bowlers threw everything they had at the Zimbabwean's in a one brave last effort. A match, which had seemed safe at the tea with the visitors on 135, started to slip from the grasp of the Zimbabwean's.
Gavin Rennie (90) the anchor of the innings, who had batted for 268 minutes, was well caught at second slip immediately after the interval off the bowling of Kaushalya Weereratne. The wicket lit a spark in the Sri lankans who suddenly sensed a dramatic victory was possible afterall. Andy Blignaut (1), the hero of the first innings then pushed back a return catch to off-spinner Thilan Samaraweera to leave the Sri Lankan's 144-6 with a minimum of rwenty overs remaining to the close.
The quick tongued Donald Campbell (14) joined Daniel Peacock (22) at the crease. For 14 overs the pair resisted the excited Sri Lankans, who regularly broke out into frenzied mass appeals. Inbetween the defensive prods and cautious leaves Donald even had time to bludgeon Herath over deep midwicket for six.
Captain Thilan Samaraweera finally called on his fast bowlers to make one last effort with te new ball. Indika Gallage, puffing up dust as he charged across the parched grass, made the breakthrough when Campbell pushed outside the offstump and was easily caught by a the wicket-keeper. Prassana Jayawardena. Four balls later Daniel Peacock who had resisted valiantly for 133 minutes was also dismissed. Losing his balance he was beaten by a ball from Weereratne that appeared to cut back into the batsmen. B.J. Cooray was in doubt, adjudging Peacock to have been LBW.
With nine overs remaining to the close Zimbabwe's dependable Captain, Angus Mackay, strode to the crease to partner Raymond Price. Regularly beaten by the bowlers the batsmen managed somehow managed to survive. Then with just six overs remaining the Zimbabweans finally wiped off the first innings deficit when the batsmen edged Gallage through the slips. Crucially this meant that Sri Lanka would have to bat again and that 2 overs would be lost in the changeover. The pressure started to lift from the Zimbabweans with every delivery they survived. Eventually the Sri Lankan's ran out of time. Thilan Samaraweera accepting the inevitable and calling it a day with two overs remaining.
Earlier in the day the Gavin Rennie had played quite splendidly for the visitors. Keen to score runs after a second ball duck in the first innings he resisted the Sri Lankans for 209 balls. During the morning he adopted a defensive attitude. However keen to sweep whenever possible and prepared to drive straight when the ball was pitched up well up to him. After lunch he raised the tempo and took the attack to the bowlers. Perhaps taking some unneeded risks he raced into the seventies before slowing down again after the fall of Craig Wishart's (1) wicket.
Zimbabwe will travel down to Zimbabwe for a couple of days practice before another warm-up game at De Soysa Park, Moratuwa. Will leave Kurunegala relieved but also quite satisfied. In foreign conditions and with an inexperienced side, they have secured a worthy draw against a very talented Sri Lankan team.
Zimbabwe A vs Sri Lanka A
Zimbabwe A in Sri Lanka unofficial ODI Series
Zimbabwe A in Sri Lanka unofficial Test Series
Zimbabwe A tour of Sri Lanka