Tea Sri Lanka 187 for 4 (Tharanga 50*, Dhananjaya 40*, Masakadza 2-13) v Zimbabwe
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Upul Tharanga’s sixth Test fifty helped Sri Lanka recover from a shaky start © AFP
Zimbabwe did what they haven’t managed to do in recent times in the longer format – tie the opposition down by stringing together dots, build pressure and then sustain it through tidy bowling, sprightly fielding and aggressive captaincy. All this meant Sri Lanka could add just 82 between lunch and tea for the loss of Kusal Mendis. They went into the break on 187 for 4, with Dhananjaya de Silva and Upul Tharanga having added 75.
The moisture may have abated on a sunny day, but there was still movement off the deck if the bowlers pitched it full. Christopher Mpofu, wayward in the first hour, and Donald Tiripano were exceptional, and the reward was in the second over after lunch when Kusal Mendis poked at a Tiripano that deviated minutely off the seam to take the edge through to the wicketkeeper to leave Sri Lanka on 112 for 4.
Tharanga, with the confidence of a century in the first Test, which also happened to be his first in more than a decade, was happy to grind the bowlers. Dhananjay, thrilled with some audacious strokes – a whiplash from outside off to split midwicket and mid-on being a standout – but knuckled down at the first sign of the surface aiding spin, when Graeme Cremer, the Zimbabwe captain, got the ball to turn and rear up on a couple of occasions.
While they just managed one wicket, the energy Zimbabwe showed on the field was a sharp contrast to their efforts in the first hour of the Test after Carl Mumba, one of their frontline pacers, spent a better part of the first hour recuperating from a knee niggle. Wayward bowling resulted in Sri Lanka’s openers reeling off 60 to minimise any hint of pressure there may have been early on after being inserted in by Cremer on a grassy surface.
The revival was led by Hamilton Masakadza, a part-time seamer, who was summoned to give the Mpofu and Tiripano a breather. It took him just 10 balls to break a threatening 62-run opening stand when he had Dimuth Karunarate glide an away-going delivery into the hands of Sean Williams at gully. In his next over, he had Kusal Perera swiping a full-length delivery to Mumba at long-on. The pressure Zimbabwe maintained thereon resulted in another strike when Kaushal Silva was trapped lbw by an in-dipper from Mpofu, leaving the hosts relishing their lunch.
Kaushal’s dismissal brought with it some drama. Originally given out, he took quite a lot time to deliberate a review. When he finally asked for one, the umpires told him he was timed out as he’d taken more than the prescribed 15 seconds to use a referral. Replays suggested Zimbabwe were lucky as the angle would have taken the ball past leg stump.
Tharanga, who walked in at the fall of that wicket, laced the first two balls through cover and then played a delicate little leg glance for four. With a power boost behind him, he serenely progressed to bring up his sixth fifty to rescue Sri Lanka and give them hopes of a strong first innings total.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo