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3rd unofficial Test, Matara, May 11 - 14, 2000, Zimbabwe A tour of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka A won by an innings and 21 runs


Sri Lanka on top after Zimbabwean fight back

A fine unbroken 64 run partnership between Thilan Samaraweera (12*) and Indika De Saram (64*) means that Sri Lanka finish on top at the end of day two in this third and final test match

Charlie Austin
Charlie Austin
A fine unbroken 64 run partnership between Thilan Samaraweera (12*) and Indika De Saram (64*) means that Sri Lanka finish on top at the end of day two in this third and final test match. Sri Lanka now trail Zimbabwe by just 7 runs with six wickets remaining. The partnership rescued the Sri Lankans who had slumped to 55-4 in reply to Zimbabwe's first innings score of 126.
Indika De Saram was the chief architect of Sri Lanka's strong position with an innings of real class. Keen to impress the selectors of the national team he has been the only batsman to come to terms with this difficult Matara wicket. His unbeaten half-century has so far spanned 165 minutes and included seven stylish boundaries.
Whilst the Sri Lankans may not be struggling on the pitch they certainly had difficulties getting to the ground on time. They arrived after the scheduled start of today's play and only had 12 minutes to prepare before the delayed start-time. The Zimbabweans looked on in a bemused fashion as the team coach finally arrived at three minutes past ten. The players were quickly ushered into the dressing room by an embarrassed management team and only had time for a couple of stretches before walking on the pitch.
Like many of us at the Stadium the previous night they had assumed that there would be no play until after lunch today. The tropical storm was so severe that the curator had actually written off playing for 48 hours! However the hot sun that blesses this land is Sri Lankan crickets greatest ally. Without it, little cricket would be possible throughout such monsoonal times. In this case it quickly burnt off the excess moisture and played was eventually delayed by just 15 minutes.
Not that every-one believed the conditions were fit for play. Zimbabwe's coach, Kevin Curran, was not happy with the state of the wicket in particular and the state of the ground in general. Pointing to surface dampness on the wicket just before the start of play he was clearly worried about the safety of the batsmen and incensed that the groundsman had taken so long to remove the covers.
Whilst his worst fears may not have materialised the wicket continued to be of uneven bounce and pace. At times the ball rose alarmingly during the first hour of play. Greg Lamb (17) was clearly unsettled by the behaviour of the ball and was the first to go in a morning session that claimed five Zimbabwean wickets.
Backing away from a short pitched delivery from Dilhara Fernando, Lamb was easily caught in the gully off the outside edge of his bat. Raymond Price (13) and Craig Wishart (3), who had batted so confidently in the second test match, tried to consolidate after the fall of Lamb's wicket but only succeeded in stagnating. With the innings grinding to a halt, especially against the spinners who went for only one run per over throughout the innings, Wishart became the second victim of the day when he was quickly stumped by an ever-alert Prasana Jayawardena.
Aware that they needed to raise the tempo if they were to seize the initiative, the Zimbabweans promoted Donald Campbell (21) to take the attack to the spinners. The plan partially succeeded as he struck three boundaries from the otherwise miserly Samaraweera. Unfortunately for the visitors the Sri Lankan captain got his revenge when Campbell failed to control a drive and was caught at mid-on. Almost immediately after Dion Ebrahim(3) continued his poor form on the tour by offering a simple catch to first slip off the leg-spin of Bandara. Five overs later he was followed by the obstinate Raymond Price, who had dourly defended 151 balls for his 13 runs.
After lunch the Zimbabweans again tried to raise the tempo and briefly threatened to recover in a 39 run partnership between Peacock (17) and Blignaut (27). However the fall of Peacocks wicket singled the end for Zimbabwe as they lost their last 3 wickets fell for just 12 runs. All three caught at mid-on or mid-off.
When the Sri Lankans replied it looked as though Avishka may get them off to a flyer again as he twice cut Mutendera to the square cover boundary in the opening overs. However much to the delight, and visible relief, of the fielders he was bowled by the same bowler in the seventh over.
The home side, perhaps momentarily disorientated by the unusual failure of their opener, then started to struggle. Angus Mackay trapped Pradeep Hewage (8) LBW immediately after the tea interval and then had Sangkkara (0) caught at leg slip for a duck to leave the innings precariously placed at 28-3. Charmara Silva (10) and Indika then put on 27 for the 4th wicket before Charmara top edged a sweep from Peacock and was caught at fine leg.
It was the left to Thilan and Indika to salvage the situation and reassert Sri Lanka's control over this match. However this match is not over yet and the Zimbabweans know that they are still in the game if thy take early wickets tomorrow.

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