Sri Lanka to record win

Published : 9:15 am  July 19, 2017 | No comments so far |  |  (40) reads | 

heroes Dickwella and Gunaratne take

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By Shehan Daniel 
They may not have been pencilled in as the likely heroes when the final day began but Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne provided the decisive hands as Sri Lanka completed a record run chase and a four-wicket victory in the only Test against Zimbabwe at the R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.

Sri Lanka began the final day needing just 218 to win, and with three wickets already lost, overnight pair Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews were seen as the best hopes for victory for the hosts.

Both batsmen were dismissed within the first hour of play however which brought Dickwella and Gunaratne together, and by the time they were finally separated in the 93rd over, they had reduced the deficit by 121 runs.

One more partnership, unbroken for 67, between Gunaratne and Dilruwan Perera saw Sri Lanka over the line, with Perera, who finished on 29, completing the run chase with his fourth boundary.

It was the highest successful run chase in Sri Lanka and the fifth highest in Test history and saved the hosts from the ignominy of losing a Test for the first time to Zimbabwe.DM_20170719_A024

Zimbabwe to their credit pushed, and even outplayed, Sri Lanka for much of the Test, but unfortunately could not make the fourth innings breakthroughs they required, sticking to their plan of attacking with spinners – Graeme Cremer, Sean Williams, Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller bowling 109 of the 114 overs between them.

Dickwella scored the higher number of runs, but Gunaratne showed the greater amount of grit, batting and running between the wickets like the hamstring tweak he suffered on Saturday was a figment of the imagination – being unbeaten probably tipping the Man of the Match award in his favour.

Gunaratne brought up his third Test half-century in 94 balls, and faced another 57 balls to reach his unbeaten 80.

Dickwella’s innings was far more functional than it was fluent, and he survived his fair share of chances, most notably a dropped catch and a stumping decision that could easily have gone the other way.

Sri Lanka had recovered well from the loss of their two overnight batsmen to reach lunch on 270 for five, needing a further 118 for victory.

 

Starved of  scoring opportunities – the overnight pair had added just eight runs in the first 32 balls of play – Mendis attempted his first shot of aggression, a sweep, against Cremer but instead of getting it square as intended he mishit it to mid-on where Williams held on to an important catch.

Mendis added six runs to his previous day’s score.

Mathews, starting the day on 17, was also guilty of surrendering his wicket softly, returning to a low catch to Cremer eight overs later, ending his 25-run partnership with Dickwella for the the fifth wicket.

Mathews’ 25 runs came off 73 balls, with a six and boundary.

Dickwella reached his half-century by the lunch break, in 69 balls, with his fifth boundary, but he might not have had a chance to get there had the third umpire not made what ultimately proved to be a decisive call.

Playing and missing a Raza delivery that spun away from his outside edge, Dickwella appeared to have not got enough of his foot behind the crease.

But after looking at multiple angles Third Umpire Chettithody Shamshuddin chose to give the benefit of whatever doubt he had to the batsman, which a different umpire on a different day may not have done.

Dickwella reached his half-century six overs later with a four to the mid-wicket boundary, and along with Gunaratne, took Sri Lanka to lunch.   
One over after, with Sri Lanka still needing 114, Zimbabwe took the new ball at its earliest availability and it took just four balls for the match to spring to life.Dickwella top edged a sweep just short of the sweeper fielder, and three overs later offered a catch to Regis Chakabva – the keeper failing to hold on after the ball bounced off his helmet.DM_20170719_A024-7

Dickwella would add another 18 runs before he offered another opportunity to Chakabva, a much easier one, which the keeper held onto, the last wicket to fall in the match.

Rangana Herath who finished with a match bag of 11 for 249 was named Man of the Series, despite this being an only Test.