Zimbabwe A 294 and 306 for 8 dec (Gripper 97, Utseya 89, Chandana 4-80) drew with Sri Lankans 461

An impressive batting performance by Zimbabwe A enabled them to draw their three-day match against the touring Sri Lankans at the Takashinga club in Harare. Resuming on 28 for 1, the A team batted throughout the day, declaring shortly before the close at 306 for 8.

The overnight pair, Trevor Gripper and the nightwatchman Prosper Utseya, more or less made the game safe by extending their second-wicket partnership to 193. Gripper dropped anchor in characteristic fashion, batting for four minutes over four hours and hitting 16 fours. He missed his century by just three runs when he was bowled by the legspinner Upul Chandana for 97.

Such trademark resistance was expected of Gripper, but Utseya's fine knock was more of a surprise. Only just 19, he slammed eight fours and three sixes in a career-best 89, which lasted 193 minutes - not bad for someone whose first-class average before this match was a modest 16.55.

Mark Vermeulen (26 in 57 minutes) and Sean Ervine (27 in 55) ensured there would be no embarrassing collapse, while Heath Streak batted for more than an hour for his unbeaten 24. He was still there when the declaration ended the match with Zimbabwe a 139 ahead and no time for ther Sri Lankans to bat.

Chandana took four wickets, and there was a rare scalp for Kumar Sangakkara, who usually keeps wicket but handed over the gloves to Prasanna Jayawardene in this match.

The first Test starts at the Harare Sports Club on Thursday (May 6). It remains to be seen how many - if any - of Zimbabwe's so-called rebel players are selected.