At Harare, October 29-November 2, 2016. Sri Lanka won by 225 runs. Toss: Sri Lanka. Test debuts: C. T. Mumba; D. A. S. Gunaratne, C. B. R. L. S. Kumara.
Zimbabwe marked their 100th Test with a performance like many of the previous 99: short on luck, long on pluck. Hindered by a number of poor umpiring decisions, they lost by a wide margin, though a mere 45 balls remained when the final wicket fell. They did, however, contribute to their downfall. In the first innings, they dropped half a dozen catches, including Kusal Perera, who went on to a maiden Test hundred, from just 104 balls, and Tharanga, who took his time over his second century, more than ten years after his first. It was the longest gap between Test centuries since the Second World War.
Further reprieves came from umpires Simon Fry and Ian Gould, who turned down four appeals - mistakenly, to judge from replays. With DRS absent, all Zimbabwe could do was soldier on. And though they bowled a side out for the first time in three Tests - having taken just 12 wickets in two matches against New Zealand - they conceded 537.
A positive second-wicket partnership between Mawoyo and Masakadza brought optimism, but 88 for one at the second-day close became 139 for six next morning. As Cremer - who had a Test average of ten - walked out, it looked grim, but he batted more than four hours for his maiden Test hundred. He played only one shot with relish, a push through extra cover that yielded seven of his ten fours, and wicketkeeper Moor provided the force in a partnership of 132. They proved that survival was not a difficult task on a friendly surface, and Tiripano got the message, helping add another 92 after Moor became teenager Lahiru Kumara's first Test victim. Still, Cremer nearly ran out of partners. He had 99 when the ninth wicket fell, and needed last man Mpofu to survive one ball from Herath, before clipping a full toss from Mendis into the leg side.
"I hadn't got 50 in Test cricket," said Cremer, "and I don't even have a five-for yet, so it was quite special." Despite the excitement, Zimbabwe conceded a heavy first-innings lead, which became unbridgable after Karunaratne hit a century in the second. Some luck finally came their
way when a downpour on the fourth day shortened the third session to 23 balls. Herath declared overnight with a lead of 411, leaving Zimbabwe 98 overs to bat out. The first two hours brought just one wicket, but another umpiring blunder - Mawoyo, given out lbw to a ball that would have missed leg - sparked a dread procession, as three fell with the score on 74. That Zimbabwe got so close to surviving was once again due to Cremer, who extended his time at the crease past seven hours. It was a shock when, with less than 11 overs remaining, he leapt down the track to Herath and was stumped. "I blame myself for losing this game," he said. Without him, Zimbabwe would have lost far earlier.
Man of the Match: A. G. Cremer.