Zim’s fight ends in loss

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

GRAEME Cremer soaked up 175 balls and 121 dots to lead an­other lower-or­der rally and raise Zim­babwe’s hopes of sav­ing their 100th Test, but Sri Lanka dug deep into their re­serves to se­cure a hard­earned vic­tory with 45 balls to spare.

When the last hour be­gan, Zim­babwe needed to bat out 15 overs with Cremer on 41 and num­ber 10 Carl Mumba on three. Both bats­men played close to their bod­ies with a straight bat, block­ing sin­gle-mind­edly, and leav­ing Sri Lanka on the ten­ter­hooks. They ne­go­ti­ated four more overs be­fore Cremer jumped out of the crease and at­tempted an in­ju­di­cious flick against the turn, off Ran­gana Herath, and was stumped for 43. He had faced 351 balls across both in­nings, the sec­ond-most by a num­ber 8 in a Test be­hind Wasim Akram’s 363, which in­ci­den­tally came against Zim­babwe in 1996.

Nine­teen balls af­ter the key wicket of Cremer, Dil­ruwan Perera knocked out Chris Mpofu’s off stump to wrap up Sri Lanka’s 225-run vic­tory.

Cremer en­tered the fray at 100 for 6, seven overs af­ter lunch, af­ter Zim­babwe had lost their last five wick­ets for 32 runs. He first added 39 for the sev­enth wicket with Sean Wil­liams in 19.4 overs be­fore mar­shalling Mumba in a 38-run ninth-wicket stand that lasted 19.1 overs.

Cremer en­dured a nervy mo­ment when he padded up to a straight de­liv­ery from Herath, but Ian Gould turned down the bowler’s ap­peal, with ball-track­ing back­ing up his de­ci­sion, in­di­cat­ing the ball would have missed off stump. Cremer shook that off and sol­diered on. His first bound­ary came off his 53rd ball when he drove a Su­ranga Lak­mal half-volley through ex­tra cover.

It was Wil­liams who laid the ground­work for Zim­babwe’s fight­back. He showed re­straint, tak­ing 21 balls to get off the mark, be­fore show­ing his range with pad­dle-sweeps and even re­verse-sweeps against the spin­ners.

Wil­liams went onto make 40 off 92 balls, be­fore Herath struck with the fourth ball af­ter tea, get­ting him to nick to slip. Herath sensed an open­ing and broke through six overs later when he had Don­ald Tiri­pano lbw for a 21-ball duck.

It was a du­bi­ous de­ci­sion from um­pire Gould, though, with re­plays de­tect­ing an in­side edge onto the pad. He should have been out off the pre­vi­ous ball he faced — a Herath arm ball pinned his front pad in front of mid­dle and leg — but Gould did not budge.

Sri Lanka then dug deep. Herath brought out the car­rom ball from wide of the crease, and even tried to shake things up with part-time legspin­ner Kusal Mendis. The sec­ond new ball ul­ti­mately ended Zim­babwe’s re­sis­tance.

In the morn­ing Lak­mal swung the first new ball and teased Zim­babwe’s open­ers in the chan­nel out­side off af­ter Sri Lanka had de­clared overnight, keep­ing in view the rain threat and set­ting Zim­babwe a tar­get of 412 in 98 overs. Brian Chari strug­gled to even put bat on ball in the early ex­changes, fail­ing to get fully for­ward or go fully back against Lak­mal’s awayswingers and Herath’s arm balls. To com­pound his woes, Chari at­tempted to sweep Herath against the turn, but the top edge did not carry to fine leg or deep square leg.

It was the ex­tra pace of teenage debu­tant Lahiru Ku­mara that ended the ten­ta­tive 31-run open­ing part­ner­ship. In his first over, an in­ducker at 141kph burst through Chari’s de­fences and sent the off stump cartwheel­ing.

Once the swing faded, Lak­mal briefly pep­pered the bats­men with short balls from around the wicket with a leg slip, for­ward short leg, and square leg placed half­way to the bound­ary, but it was re­verse-swing with the old ball that pro­vided him the break­throughs. In the space of three balls, he coaxed a cou­ple to veer back into Masakadza and Waller to trap both lbw.

It came af­ter Dil­ruwan had struck twice in nine balls to re­move Tino Ma­woyo for 37 and Sean Ervine for an eight-ball duck.

Ma­woyo was ad­judged lbw by um­pire Si­mon Fry, though the slider from Dil­ruwan seemed to be head­ing past leg stump with the an­gle from over the wicket. Ervine, though, was trapped plumb in front by a full de­liv­ery that turned away.

Zim­babwe lost four wick­ets for only six runs and later Herath worked his way past Cremer and the tail to give Sri Lanka their first away Test win af­ter seven matches, on cap­taincy de­but.

Graeme Cremer flicks one past a div­ing short leg dur­ing the 1st Test in Harare, yes­ter­day. Pic: ESPNCricInfo

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