Tharanga nears ton as Sri Lanka pass 500

Tea Sri Lanka 512 for 8 (Tharanga 96*) v Zimbabwe
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Upul Tharanga anchored Sri Lanka’s innings with an unbeaten 96 © AFP

For a brief period on the second morning, Zimbabwe made run-scoring look strenuous. For the rest of the day, Sri Lanka’s batsmen enjoyed a placid Harare surface and a tiring bowling attack to pile on 512 for 8 at tea. Upul Tharanga displayed admirable patience against a tight bowling effort in the first session and reaped the rewards in the second to inch closer to his second Test ton, ending with an unbeaten 96.

Tharanga milked the bowling for the majority of the day, capitalizing on anything short and unleashing his productive cuts and dabs behind square on the off side. After Cremer blocked that option out with a full length, Tharanga chose to sweep with the spin, including a lofted heave over midwicket to bring up his fifty.

He was more assured in the second session, timing his drives on a slow surface or using the depth of the crease after reading the length early.

Tharanga was assisted by debutant Asela Gunaratne who auditioned for a regular spot in the Test squad with 54 off 102 balls, compiled on a compact technique and an ability to maneuver the field. A tight channel just outside off didn’t work against him: he often opened the face of the bat to steer boundaries either side of gully.

Soon after becoming the 18th Sri Lankan batsman to score a fifty on his Test debut, Gunaratne misjudged the length of a short delivery from Sean Williams. A leading edge off an attempted pull was taken at midwicket. A run-out and debutant Mumba’s first Test wicket meant it was Zimbabwe’s most successful session of the match.

Zimbabwe were sloppy in the field again: Peter Moor missed a stumping and two more dropped catches to add to his two spilled chances on the first day. Tharanga was dropped at cover when he checked a drive off Donald Tiripano, but Tino Mawoyo couldn’t hold on low to his left. They were much better in the morning though. Their bowlers found their discipline and combined to choke Sri Lanka’s run-rate in an attritional morning session.

Seamers Chris Mpofu and Carl Mumba began the day by hanging the ball well outside the off stump, asking overnight batsmen Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva to fetch for their runs. The batsmen were content in seeing off their opening spell, occasionally wafting at the bowlers’ inviting lines. Both teams were satisfied with the start.

In their recent Test series against New Zealand, Zimbabwe’s bowlers displayed competence in consistency but weren’t able to ‘bore’ batsmen for long enough. Newly-appointed coach Heath Streak may have already turned that around. Barring the sporadic overpitched delivery, the bowlers repeatedly hit the same lines and lengths through the session. Zimbabwe conceded just 50 runs in the first 24 overs of the morning.

De Silva could muster 15 runs in 55 balls in the morning before stepping out to legspinner Graeme Cremer. He failed to get to the pitch of the ball, went through with the stroke and ended up skewing his wicket away, caught at long-off. Zimbabwe created a wicket, their only one in the morning session.

Nikhil Kalro is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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