The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE put on a controlled bowling display and held their nerve to close out the second One-Day International (ODI) against Sri Lanka by 22 runs at Pallekele on Tuesday.
The win saw the visitors level the series at one-all going into Friday’s decider, and, more importantly, pick up 10 points on the ICC Super League table.
After winning the toss, the Chevrons raced to 302 led by half-centuries from man-of-the-match Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza, while the duo of Regis Chakabva (47) and Sean Williams (48) chipped in with some handy runs.
Looking back, however, it will have to be Ervine’s innings that proved the difference and helped Zimbabwe get enough runs on the board to give bowlers something to defend.
Ervine finished nine runs shy of what would have been a well-deserved century, with his 91 coming off 98 balls.
He also starred in two crucial partnerships, chiefly a 106-run third-wicket stand with Sean Williams and a 50-run fifth-wicket stand with Sikandar Raza.
With 302 runs on the board, it was up to Zimbabwe’s frontline bowlers – Blessing Muzarabani, Richard Ngarava and Tendai Chatara – to mount the Chevrons’ defence of the total.
While the three would go on to share seven wickets between them, there was nothing easy or simple about Zimbabwe’s defence.
Muzarabani and Chatara finished with three wickets apiece, while Ngarava chipped with the single but all-important scalp.
Muzarabani’s three wickets came off 56 at both ends of the Asians’ innings, picking up the early wicket of opener Pathum Nissanka (16) early on in the Sri Lanka chase.
He then wrapped things up with the scalp of Jeffrey Vandersay (4) in the last over.
In-between said wickets, Dasun Shanaka’s century threatened to take the game away from the visitors, with the middle-order batter also starring in his own crucial partnerships.
Any one of them could have seen the Asians home.
The first was a 118-run fifth-wicket partnership with Kamindu Mendis (57), and then a 66-run sixth-wicket partnership with Chamika Karunaratne (34).
Luckily, Ngarava was on hand to break the fifth-wicket stand when Mendis caught by the skipper at mid-off in the 34th over, while Williams had Karunaratne run out to break the sixth-wicket stand.
In the end, Sri Lanka finished the innings on 280 for nine, with Shanaka top-scoring with 102 runs off 94 balls.
After the match, Zimbabwe skipper Ervine lauded his charges.
“It was quite nice to bat, it was coming on nicely,” said Ervine.
“I thought there was a little bit more in it for the spinners today.
“I thought in the first game we were bowled a little bit short and wide, and I thought this time the seamers did really well to get those early wickets for us.
“We were under a bit of pressure to win today, but hats off to the boys for coming out and showing that, you know, desperation to pull off the win,” he said.