Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
Sri Lanka 254 for 9 (Nissanka 55, Asalanka 52, Ngarava 2-46) beat Zimbabwe 70 (Kaitano 19, Vandersay 4-10) by 184 runs
Sri Lanka's bowlers ran rampant in the early overs of Zimbabwe's chase reducing the opposition to 20 for 3, then 31 for 5, and eventually 70 all out, decimating their hopes of chasing down 255 and claiming a series victory.
Dushmantha Chameera blasted out the first two wickets, before the spinners claimed the limelight - Maheesh Theekshana squeezing one between Sean Williams' bat and pad, Jeffrey Vandersay taking four of his own, before Ramesh Mendis also took two. Somewhere in that cascade of wickets, seamer Chamika Karunaratne struck too, to remove the dangerous Sikandar Raza.
After 15 overs, Zimbabwe were 37 for 5, the required rate had crept above six, and the chase was essentially buried. Ryan Burl and Tendai Chatara fought briefly to put up 18 for the ninth wicket - the best stand of the innings. But it was all over by the 25th over, with Vandersay scything through the lower order.
The collapse was particularly disappointing for Zimbabwe, because their attack had operated with such discipline to keep Sri Lanka to a manageable total. Where Zimbabwe's own batters had put up totals in the 300 range batting first in the two previous matches, Sri Lanka lurched only to 254 for 9, with each of their top eight getting to double-figures, but only Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka managing half-centuries.
Zimbabwe's had been a collective bowling effort. Richard Ngarava claimed 2 for 46 from his nine overs while Chatara, Blessing Muzarabani, Wellington Masakadza, Ryan Burl, and Sean Williams all claimed one wicket apiece. Aside from an 80-run opening stand between Nissanka and Kusal Mendis, Zimbabwe never let another pair prosper for long, the next-best partnership coming much later in the innings, when Karunaratne and Ramesh Mendis put on 48 together.
It was Chameera who precipitated Zimbabwe's rapid downfall, in the third over. He bowled a shortish ball outside off stump to right-hander Regis Chakabva, who edged it to slip. Then, next ball, he angled one across captain Ervine, who nicked it to the keeper. When Theekshana sent a straighter one through Williams' defences in the eighth over, Zimbabwe had lost their three best top-order batters in the series.
After the first powerplay, Kaitano was given out stumped off the bowling of Vandersay, although the evidence that his back foot was in the air when keeper Kusal Mendis took the bails off did not seem totally conclusive. Next over, Raza spooned a catch to cover, and all of Zimbabwe's serious batting hopes had departed.
Vandersay then took three of the five remaining wickets, and Ramesh Mendis claimed the other two. There was no substantial turn in the pitch - Sri Lanka were menacing, but not unplayable. Zimbabwe will feel they let themselves down.
In the first innings, Sri Lanka had begun steadily with the bat - Nissanka and Kusal Mendis hitting only five boundaries in the powerplay, as they strode to 43 for 0 in ten overs. As has been the case right through the series, Zimbabwe's quicks were disciplined and sharp, though they didn't find the early wickets they had managed in the first two games.
Perhaps sensing that he needed to raise the tempo if Sri Lanka were to near the 300 mark, Kusal Mendis was the first to depart, lofting the left-arm spin of Masakadza to long off. He was out for 36 off 51 balls. Nissanka brought up his second successive half-century of the series with a four through backward point, but was run out not long after that, thanks to an excellent direct hit from Zimbabwe's substitute fielder.
Asalanka struck a four through third man first ball, and provided Sri Lanka's main thrust of the middle overs even as wickets fell around him. He was strong square of the wicket as usual, and hit five fours in his 56-ball 52. It was his second fifty of the series.
Sri Lanka's 2-1 victory pushes them up to fourth in the ODI Super League table, though they have played 18 out of their 24 games, and all other sides aside from Ireland (also 18) have played fewer. Zimbabwe are down at No. 11, on 35 points after 12 games. Only teams finishing in the top eight, effectively, gain direct qualification to next year's ODI World Cup.
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