The forty or so groundsmen, who worked so hard in the morning to dry the ground this morning, will have been greatly relieved that their efforts have proved so worthwhile for the Sri Lankan team. In the 39 overs that were eventually possible, after heavy rains in the preceding 48 hours, Sri Lanka quickly progressed to 164-1. Not a bad days work for a side that would have preferred to have started this match tomorrow and play an extra day at the end.
The Zimbabwean's will perhaps rue their insistence to play today after a thorough mauling by Avishka Gunawardena (114*). In a quite brutal display of batting, Avishka was completely undeterred by the bowler friendly conditions and continued in the same positive vein that he scored a hundred at Kurunegala and a 72 in the Colombo for the BCCSL XI.
His 114 not out from just 132 balls was a dismissive innings, it was the innings of a man who has supreme confidence in his ability at the moment. The greatest threat to his wicket is surely his overconfidence. In fact this innings was neither as technically correct nor as ascetically pleasing as the innings in Kurunegala last week . It made up for this in it's sheer audacity and high class entertainment. Such is his confidence that he was prepared to uppercut a disconsolate Andy Blignaut over the slips in the early overs.
Starting the innings with a flurry of boundaries square of the wicket his only moments of unease were an appeal for a catch behind and a dropped catch. In the ninth over the Zimbabwean's were certain that he had been caught behind of the bowling of Blignaut. The umpire didn't agree and he was allowed to continue. He was also dropped in the gully when he had made just 60, it was though an extremely hard one-handed chance.
Zimbabwe, who had won the toss and elected to field, will be desperately disappointed by the performance of the bowlers and the fielders. Have won an opportunity to bowl first on a pitch of greenish colour, they wasted any assistance that there may have been by spraying the ball around. The bowling discipline of the previous match completely deserted the opener pair, Andy Blignaut and David Mutendera, who couldn't find a consistent line or length. Whilst Mutendera frequently pushed the ball into the batsmen's pads, Blignaut bowled far too short on a slow pitch.
The exception was their aggressive skipper, Gus Mackay, who settled into his best rhythm of the tour. Probably incensed by the performance of his openers he charged to the wicket with a focus and intensity that we had not seen on the tour. He pitched the ball up to the batsmen and bowled straight. By doing so he was the only bowler to move the ball off this moist pitch and the only real threat to the Sri Lankan's.
His deserved reward was the wicket of Hewage (27) who was caught behind: the victim of a perfect legcutter. The wicket brought to an end an opening partnership of 96 in just 22 overs. Mackay should have had two wickets when Gavin Rennie put down a relatively simple chance at first slip off Indika De Saram (18*). One suspects that the Zimbabwean's will be forced to pay for dropping someone as talented.
Whilst the other batsmen played a supporting role Avishka continued to blaze away, eventually reaching his century off just 111 deliveries in the 34th over.
Zimbabwe now have their work cut out tomorrow if they are to get back in this match. Especially with Andy Blignaut looking as if he has damaged his back again. They will most probably have to resort to the steadying influence of Daniel Peacock and Raymond Price.