Tour review

Zimbabwe vs Sri Lanka in 2019-20

John Ward

Test matches (2): Zimbabwe 0, Sri Lanka 1

This was a tour Zimbabwe could hardly afford, having suffered so drastic a financial cut from the ICC that they struggled to run their domestic season. But it was a tour they desperately needed - to revive public interest in the national team, keep in touch with Test cricket and, it was hoped, show the world the country still had the players to merit Full Member status.

Given the problems at Zimbabwe Cricket, and across the country, this two-match visit by Sri Lanka - who had lost none of the previous 18 Tests between the teams - was a gamble. A weakened and inexperienced home side went into the series with little confidence, without an established opening batsman and one of their two top seamers, the injury-prone Tendai Chatara. The other, Kyle Jarvis, suffered a back strain during the First Test, and missed the Second.

Despite losing, Zimbabwe were competitive on at least eight days out of ten, with the Tests played back-to-back at Harare Sports Club; in the Second, Sri Lanka even had to bat out most of the final day after conceding a big first-innings deficit. Throughout, ZC allowed spectators in for free; on most days, over 1,000 enthusiastic fans created a vibrant atmosphere.

Sri Lanka had strengthened their pace bowling by recalling Suranga Lakmal after illness, and he proved their greatest threat, finishing with ten wickets at 15. Left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya was the leading wicket-taker on either side, with 13, but was often punished by Zimbabwe's batsmen.

For the hosts, Sikandar Raza took 11 cheap wickets with his off-breaks - his most successful series with the ball - though among his colleagues only seamer Victor Nyauchi, playing his first Tests, claimed more than two.

Player of the Series, however, was Angelo Mathews, Sri Lanka's patient accumulator and the backbone of their batting: his double-century in the First Test preceded Zimbabwe's fatal third-innings slump. Kusal Mendis, meanwhile, batted for more than 73 overs on the final day of the Second Test to secure a draw, and a 1-0 win.

© John Wisden & Co