Zimbabwe in control after Raza heroics


Zimbabwe cricketer Sikandar Raza relaxes during the third day’s play of the one-off Test match against Sri Lanka at the R Premadasa Cricket Stadium on July 16, 2017. Pic by Ishara S. Kodikara.

by Rex Clementine

Test cricket’s glorious uncertainties continue to marvel you. When Zimbabwe collapsed to 23 for four in their second innings at lunch with a mere lead of 33 runs, you sensed the game ending inside three days with a comfortable win for Sri Lanka. But Sikandar Raza then turned the game upside down with a remarkable fightback and the one off Test now could go the full distance. Zimbabwe finished day three on 252 for six. Sri Lanka’s target as of now is 262 and anything beyond 300 could be challenging.

Sri Lanka did well to post 346 in their first innings in the morning after resuming from 293 for seven. A 48 run partnership for the eighth wicket between Rangana Herath and Asela Gunaratne proved to be crucial although Sri Lanka still fell short by ten runs.

With little over half an hour left for lunch, the Zimbabweans came out looking to be positive and ready to play their shots.

Dinesh Chandimal didn’t hold back Herath as he threw him the new ball and Herath took three wickets in three overs. Soon there was more spin as Dilruwan Perera was unleashed from Maligawatta End. He dismissed Zimbabwe’s first innings hero Craig Ervine cheaply to take complete control of the game.

Things got tougher for Zimbabwe as Herath dismissed Sean Williams after lunch. It was his ninth wicket in the game and at 59 for five, he was threatening to run through the tail.

But once the ball lost it’s shine, finger spinners were not causing much trouble and Zimbabwe progressed nicely.

All credit to Raza, who played superbly and added 86 runs for the sixth wicket with Peter Moor.

The stand was broken when Moor took on Lahiru Kumara, but the pull shot went straight to square-leg fielder.

Raza is nearing his maiden Test century and there could be something special in store for Malcolm Waller as well. Waller raced to his half-century off 54 deliveries, his fourth in Tests. Soon after the milestone he settled down and the unfinished seventh wicket stand between him and Raza is now worth 107 runs.

Raza has batted for over four hours, faced 158 deliveries for his 97 which contained seven fours and a six.

His knock has given Zimbabwe a fine opportunity to rewrite the history books. Zimbabwe have never won a Test match against Sri Lanka before.


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