Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo, 5th day July 18, 2017

Dickwella, Gunaratne star in record chase

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Sri Lanka 346 (Tharanga 71, Chandimal 55, Cremer 5-125) and 391 for 6 (Dickwella 81, Gunaratne 80*, Cremer 4-150) beat Zimbabwe 356 (Ervine 160, Herath 5-116) and 377 (Raza 127, Waller 68, Herath 6-133) by four wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Arnold: Zimbabwe were tactically superior to Sri Lanka

A lively 121-run stand for the sixth wicket between Asela Gunaratne and Niroshan Dickwella 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 they 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. Dickwella had made 81. Graeme Cremer, who had raised Zimbabwe's hopes when he dismissed both Kusal Mendis and Angelo Mathews within the first hour of play, was left with four wickets to his name, as his team failed to claim the chances that might have punctured Sri Lanka's resurgence. Once the initial disappointment fades, however, Zimbabwe may reflect that they have played with incredible courage here, and at least have that ODI series trophy to take home with them.

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 5, 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 performances.

Zimbabwe should have had Dickwella again on 63, when Sean Williams induced an edge with a sliding delivery, only for Chakabva - who had kept immaculately until then - to fumble the chance. Sri Lanka had at the time been 102 runs from the target. 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 had it turn and beat him down the leg side. Chakabva could not gather cleanly, and Gunaratne made it back into the crease. 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. He was always on the lookout for risk-free runs, rarely failing to take the most sensible option on offer, hitting boundaries only off the wayward balls, and running hard for his partner - strained hamstring and all. Where others were largely reliant on the sweep for their runs, Gunaratne also had in his repertoire the short-arm pull, which could fetch him runs in a wide arc between midwicket and fine leg. While he was at the crease, there was a steadiness to the chase.

Niroshan Dickwella was put down by Regis Chakabva on 63 © AFP

Not for Dickwella, however, was restraint or control. He swept and reverse-swept merrily, often venturing down the pitch to the spinners, and getting pad or boot to ball on the occasions he could not hit it with his bat. His innings featured only six fours, but that is partly because the energy and ambition he brought to the crease forced Zimbabwe to post more men on the fence than they would ideally have liked. Even before lunch, the rhythm with which Zimbabwe's bowlers had operated in the early overs, seemed slightly upset.

As the stand with Gunaratne grew after the break, nerves appeared to enter Zimbabwe's game for the first time in two days. Dickwella brought up his fifty off the 69th delivery he faced, clubbing Chris Mpofu to the midwicket fence. He slowed down after the milestone, but had nevertheless changed the outlook of the match. He was caught behind off the glove attempting to reverse-sweep Sean 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.

But how Zimbabwe had shaken Sri Lanka in the morning. Mendis, who had batted with such assurance on day four, attempted to sweep a wide and full Cremer delivery, and wound up sending a top edge to mid-on. That was only the sixth over of the day. When Angelo Mathews then chipped a return catch to Cremer eight overs later, with 185 runs still to get, the chase was in crisis. Zimbabwe ringed the new men, and only an innings as risk-riddled as Dickwella's could loosen their grip on this game.

Relief will be Sri Lanka's first emotion to the victory, but perhaps there will also be contentment that three of their less experienced players played important roles in the chase. Gunaratne and Dickwella have 12 Tests between them, and the only other man to cross fifty was 22-year old Mendis. While the bowling attack requires substantial inspection, the batting, at least appears in half-decent shape.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on July 20, 2017, 13:12 GMT

    Since Jan 2016 to date (past 18 m), how Upul Tharanga performed as Opener in both formats:

    - UT in Odi as Opener- 8 ings /359 r@ 45 Av- 119 HS (vs SA)- 93 SR / 1 x 100+ & 2-50+

    - UT in Tests as Opener -6 ings/ 254 r@ 42 Av- 115 HS (vs BD)- 58 SR / 1 - 100+ & 1-50+

    Compare this with Dhanushka 's performance as Odi opener in past 18 m:

    - Danushka in Odis as Opener -19 ings/ 658 r@34 Av- 116 HS (vs Zmb)- 86 SR / 1 - 100+ & 5-50+

    SL lost the home Odi series Vs Zmb, mainly due to the ludicrous shuffle of well settled No2 Opener again, pushing UT down again to bat @ No4. SJ's never-ending 3.5 yr experiment extended further... despite the heavy cost, that sank SL cricket to the current abyss in ICC rankings!

    Underutilized SL's most productive Opener Upul ultimately ended up with 3 consecutive unbeaten 79*/75* /45* made at a sparkling SR, frustratingly stranded at the end without the near 100 dot-balls wasted by DG (SR 60s/80s) thanks to Mathews & SJ.

  • joshua7072265 on July 19, 2017, 17:24 GMT

    The series award for 1 match was the strangest thing ever.

  • joshua7072265 on July 19, 2017, 17:03 GMT

    Herath is a class spinner.

  • Andrew on July 19, 2017, 16:09 GMT

    2019 WC hope depends on Sana's significant change in his usual destructive merit-less selection methodology seen throughout his tenures up to 2011 WC & 2nd stint seen through past year & half. His ridiculous selections overlooking best resources available & constant changes aimed at most productive players cost us the previous WC.

    The best example for this is wasting 3 years of most productive SL opener Upul Tharanga's prime career, since 28 yrs of age. He was overlooked for 2011 WC, preferring a guy like Dimuth to fail miserably at WC & in NZ series (17 Odis/190 runs @ 15. 83 Av as opener. Also, preferring Kusal Perera as Opener over Tharanga to grant him 57 consecutive Odis as Opener over 3.5 years to collect 1474 runs @ 26.80 Av, continuously destabilizing the entire top-order with his under 10 ball single digit scores accounted for 50% of his innings creating a World record as worst Odi opener seen in the world since his debut (27 odis - 105 runs @ 3.88 Av - 9 HS -51 SR).

  • manjula on July 19, 2017, 15:16 GMT

    Funny side is SLC had a Man-of-series award, where there is no series. Then to make things funnier, award two different players MoM and MoS.

  • chami on July 19, 2017, 14:12 GMT

    I did not see the incident but line belongs to umpire. some talking about umpires do you guys know Allen border was never given LBW in Australia by Aus. Those days Imran Khan was a big voice to get 2 neutral umpires.

  • joshua7072265 on July 19, 2017, 13:17 GMT

    @Jayalath Yes anything can happen nothing is certain. Zim also had injuries in Carl Mumba and Wellington Masakadza.

  • sl on July 19, 2017, 10:04 GMT

    This is a great escape for SL. Either way SL cricket is in trouble. That is all I can say.

  • world on July 19, 2017, 5:57 GMT

    @rafiquzzaman, I can understand your views. please review Aleem Dar past and present records too... Please check paul Raifel too .. All umpires have bad day.. Even in past Pakistani umpires were unofficial team members of pakistani team.

  • Jayalath on July 19, 2017, 5:07 GMT

    The match would have turned around if Asela Gunaratne didn't pull his hamstring. If that was the case he wouldn't have been dismissed the way he did in the 1st innings and Dilruwan wouldn't have got runout and SL would have a lead instead of trailing. Then he would have come out and bowled and broken a parntership in the second innings and also taken more singles while batting with Dickwella. So many things could have TURNED AROUND...even before Samsudeen's overhyped decision which was simply about giving the batsman the benefit of the doubt.

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