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Match reports


At Harare, October 11, 12, 13, 15, 16

At Harare, October 11, 12, 13, 15, 16. Drawn. Toss: Sri Lanka.
The inaugural Test between these two countries never looked like producing a result after a terrible first day, on which Sri Lanka laboured for 90 overs to score 157 runs. When they finally took the field, they found prising out batsmen as difficult as the Zimbabweans had done. The unusually early rains which interrupted the third and fourth days and washed out the last only hastened the inevitable conclusion.
The match featured the third-slowest century in Test cricket, made by Gurusinha in 535 minutes. Only Mudassar Nazar (557 minutes, for Pakistan against England in 1977-78) and Jackie McGlew (545 minutes, for South Africa against Australia in 1957-58) had taken longer. Gurusinha used up 405 balls and his 128 lasted just over ten hours, until a rare lapse in concentration when he drove a half-volley straight to short extra cover.
Having removed Mahanama after an hour, Zimbabwe had to wait another 115 overs for their next wicket. During that time, Gurusinha and Sanjeeva Ranatunga, the captain's younger brother, ground out 217 on a slow pitch that neither seamed nor turned. Ranatunga reached his maiden Test century, on his second appearance, before he was finally caught behind for 118 from 348 balls. His brother, Arjuna, produced by far the most positive batting of the match, with 62 off 102 balls. Without him, the Sri Lankans would have scored at under two an over - it was still an abysmal 2.12, clearly a result of their paranoia about losing.
The Zimbabweans were only a little quicker, at 2.59. But, as they had no hope of winning once Sri Lanka had used up two days over 383, it was understandable that crease occupation was their first objective. Grant Flower scored one run in his first 75 minutes, but went on to help Dekker construct Zimbabwe's highest opening partnership in their eight Tests - 113 in 44 overs. The top four all made useful contributions, with Houghton's four-and-a-half-hour 58 the precursor of better and longer innings to come. The biggest score, however, was 65 from extras, the third-highest figure ever conceded in a Test innings.
Despite the preponderance of bat over ball, several bowlers put in excellent performances. Zimbabwe were reduced to three seamers when Brain broke down after bowling five overs, but Whittall rose to the occasion with four for 70 and Jarvis fulfilled the role of stock bowler admirably. He gave away just 33 in 24 overs on the first day and later took an outstanding diving return catch to dismiss De Silva. For Sri Lanka, Vaas displayed impressive accuracy and swing.
Whittall became the first Zimbabwean to be fined in a Test, for dissent after umpire Ian Robinson gave him out caught behind. Whittall gestured that the ball had struck him on the forearm rather than the glove, for which referee Peter van der Merwe deducted 25 per cent of his match fee - about £25.
Close of play: First day, Sri Lanka 157-1 (A. P. Gurusinha 67*, S. Ranatunga 65*); Second day, Sri Lanka 383; Third day, Zimbabwe 172-2 (A. D. R. Campbell 27*, D. L. Houghton 22*); Fourth day, Zimbabwe 319-8 (S. G. Peall 9*, D. H. Brain 6*)