Muscat Daily - - SPORTS -

Colombo, Sri Lanka - A lively 121-run stand for the sixth wicket be­tween Asela Gu­naratne (80 not out) and Niroshan Dick­wella (81) was the cen­ter­piece of a great es­cape for the hosts, and a sap­ping de­feat for a dar­ing Zim­babwe side.

Zim­babwe had never beaten Sri Lanka, of course, but also, the 388 it had set had also never been chased ei­ther by Sri Lanka, or by any­one on the is­land.

In the end, Sri Lanka achieved the tar­get with four wick­ets in hand - Gu­naratne hav­ing prod­ded his team sen­si­bly on­ward. He was on 80 when the win­ning runs were hit.

Graeme Cre­mer (4-150) had raised Zim­babwe's hopes when he dis­missed both Kusal Mendis (66) and An­gelo Mathews (25) within the first hour of play but his team failed to claim the chances that might have punc­tured Sri Lanka's resur­gence. Three de­nied or missed wicket op­por­tu­ni­ties, all of them in­volv­ing wick­et­keeper Regis Chak­abva, will haunt Zim­babwe.

First, with Dick­wella on 37 and Sri Lanka on 237 for five, Chak­abva whipped off the bails and ap­pealed, af­ter Dick­wella had over­bal­anced, miss­ing a ball from Sikan­dar Raza.

It was a close de­ci­sion: no part of the crease was vis­i­ble be­hind Dick­wella's boot.

How­ever, no part of the boot ap­peared to be be­hind the crease ei­ther, so on bal­ance Dick­wella should have been given out. But third um­pire Chet­tithody Shamshud­din would rule him not out, and Dick­wella would go on pro­duce one of the game's de­fin­i­tive knock.

Zim­babwe should have had Dick­wella again on 63, when Sean Wil­liams in­duced an edge with a slid­ing de­liv­ery, only for Chak­abva to fum­ble the chance.

Fi­nally, af­ter Dick­wella had even­tu­ally been dis­missed, Gu­naratne would also be re­prieved by Chak­abva. Run­ning down the track at Cre­mer on 54, Gu­naratne failed to reach the pitch of the ball, and Chak­abva missed a stump­ing. Had he been out at that point, Sri Lanka would have been seven down, with Ran­gana Herath and Dil­ruwan Per­era new at the crease, 50 runs still to get.

But aside from that in­dis­cre­tion, Gu­naratne was a calm­ing in­flu­ence on the chase. Not for Dick­wella, how­ever, was re­straint or con­trol. He was caught be­hind off the glove at­tempt­ing to re­verse-sweep Wil­liams, but Sri Lanka needed only 64 at that stage, and in the end, no fur­ther wick­ets fell.

Dil­ruwan Per­era con­trib­uted a shaky 29. It would be enough.

Zim­babwe had shaken Sri Lanka in the morn­ing. Mendis was out only in the sixth over of the day and Mathews then chipped a re­turn catch to Cre­mer eight overs later, with 185 runs still to get, the chase was in cri­sis.

But Gu­naratne and Dick­wella en­sured the hosts got over the cri­sis to cel­e­brate a hard-fought vic­tory.


Sri Lanka’s Asela Gu­naratne (right) and Dil­ruwan Per­era cel­e­brate their team’s win against Zim­babwe in the one-off Test match on Tues­day

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