DICKWELLA, GUNARATNE STAR IN RECORD CHASE
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