The Sri Lankans arrived in Zimbabwe in October 1994 having lost their previous five Tests, four by an innings. They achieved what they then set out to do - avoid defeat. All three Tests were drawn and the tone was set on the opening day of the series, when Sri Lanka crawled to 157 for one from 90 overs on the flattest of pitches. Despite possessing several natural strokeplayers, they maintained this negative approach throughout. Indeed, the two sides rarely lifted their scoring-rate as high as two and a half an over in any innings. Sri Lanka never had a sniff of their first Test victory overseas, though Zimbabwe were not far off their first win in the Second Test at Bulawayo, where they enforced the follow-on for the first time.
Had they played on the livelier seamers' pitches which were prepared for the subsequent encounters with Pakistan, the Zimbabweans might well have won. But, to coach John Hampshire's disappointment, all the Tests were played on shirtfronts offering minimal turn. Zimbabwe were dismissed in only one of their three Test innings and had to be satisfied with claiming victory on points. The series confirmed that they were making steady progress as a Test nation and it was a personal triumph for David Houghton, still a world-class batsman at 37 and one of the best players of spin. He became the first Zimbabwean to score a double-hundred in Tests and followed it up with another century in his next innings to amass 466 at 155.33. Alistair Campbell was the only other home batsman with an aggregate in three figures. The Sri Lankans' leading scorer was Sanjeeva Ranatunga, younger brother of the captain, Arjuna. He made 273 at 68.25, including two hundreds, with Asanka Gurusinha not far behind. Aravinda de Silva, the batsman Zimbabwe feared most, had a disappointing series, totalling only 112 at 28.00
Each side could boast a young pace bowler of great promise, in Heath Streak and Chaminda Vaas, both aged 20. Streak took 13 wickets and Vaas ten, both at an average of just over 23. Vaas, a left-armer, swung the ball back into the right-hander and demonstrated excellent control; like Ravindra Pushpakumara, who took seven in Zimbabwe's only innings of the Third Test, he had been coached by Dennis Lillee at his fast bowling academy in Madras. Streak, strong as an ox, also swung the ball out and bowled some long spells in great heat.
The unexciting pace of the Tests was reflected in the low attendances - the biggest crowd for any day was 1,000, on the Sunday at Bulawayo. The one-day games, won 2-1 by Sri Lanka, did attract more, with 3,000 watching the decider at Harare Sports Club. The same number attended some three months later on the day Zimbabwe completed their first Test victory, over Pakistan, which was encouraging for the hard-up Zimbabwe Cricket Union. But where was their financial acumen when they scheduled the rest day of the Third Test against Sri Lanka on a Saturday?
In December, Sri Lanka went to South Africa for a quadrangular one-day tournament. They had victories over their hosts and New Zealand, but could not reach the final. They also played two first-class matches against provincial sides, both of which were drawn.
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