Zimbabwe’s rejoice in hosting Test cricket for the first time since October-November 2017 was cut short by a well-armed Sri Lankan side, who thrashed them by 10 wickets on the final day of the inaugural Test match. With a first-ever win against the same opposition and a series leveller insight, the Chevrons will head to the Harare Sports Club on January 27.
They were undone, despite scoring a respectable total of 358 in the first innings, by an Angelo Mathews double hundred in the previous outing. A difficult track on day 4, gelled with a team who had their tails up after sheer domination from the bat resulted in a massive collapse, resulting in a paltry total of 14 for the visitors. Perhaps, they missed the precision, zip and pace of talismanic fast bowler Tendai Chatara, who was ruled out of the series due to a bicep injury.
Nevertheless, much like their recent wins against Pakistan and Bangladesh in the longest format, a refurbished Zimbabwe outfit – with a new captain in Sean Williams and a host of inexperienced stars – had a chunk of positives to note for preparation for the second Test.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, put in a professional performance and held their nerves on the final day. They stuck to their plans and the pace bowling attack led by Suranga Lakmal put his hand up in desperate times. However, they can’t take the home side lightly as Zimbabwe fought bravely and will come back hard at them.
Following a lacklustre bowling display in the opening game, the home side will be vying to bag early wickets. They should cling on to their pace battery at present, while the likes of Raza and Ndlovu can offer something on the table with their finger spin. They clearly did not get blown away by the Lankan Lions, and therefore, most of the batting dynamic is set to remain the same.
Kasuza suffered a concussion and didn’t bat in the second innings and his availability is still not clear yet. Brian Mudzinganyama who played as a concussion substitute will most likely replace him at the top of the order.
Probable playing XI: Kevin Kasuza/Brian Mudzinganyama, Prince Masvaure, Craig Ervine, Brendan Taylor, Sean Williams (c), Sikandar Raza, Regis Chakabva (wk), Kyle Jarvis, Donald Tiripano, Victor Nyauchi, Ainsley Ndlovu.
It didn’t seem like the visitors missed Kusal Perera all that much, as they rode on Angelo Mathews’ double ton, alongside valuable inputs from Kusal Mendis, Dhananjaya de Silva and Niroshan Dickwella. It’d be wise to stick to the same XI, while one or two changes could be made, should the management feel they can claim the series victory without their winning combination.
Probable playing XI: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Oshada Fernando, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjaya de Silva, Niroshan Dickwella (wk), Dilruwan Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Embuldeniya, Lahiru Kumara.
Focus will be on
Brendan Taylor (Zimbabwe)
Brendan Taylor, a torch-bearer of Zimbabwe cricket for over a decade now, applied himself well in both innings of the previous Test match but couldn’t translate the rock-solid foundation he laid for himself into a giant score. Scores of 21 and 38 could have been much more, had it not been for Suranga Lakmal. Taylor has often been guilty of playing away from his body with little feet movement, and the onus will be on him to show much-needed resurgence heading into the second and final outing.
Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka)
Angelo Mathews possesses a story like none other. From a player who could give it a real rattle towards the end, the all-rounder has completely transformed into a dependable middle-order stroke maker. His 200* stitched the Sri Lankan innings from one end, thereby completely clawing the game away from Zimbabwe’s reach. He’s a match-winner, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him amongst the runs in the series decider as well.
Matches – 19 | Zimbabwe Won – 0 | Sri Lanka Won – 14 | Draws – 5
25 – The number of years it’s been since Zimbabwe paused Sri Lanka from winning a Test series against them, with the latest of them coming in 1994/95 when three Test matches on the bounce were drawn between the two sides.
406 – Sri Lanka’s Angelo Mathews’ double-century – his first in Test cricket – came 406 days after his last century, when he scored 120* off 323 balls against the Black Caps in Wellington earlier in December 2018.
Live Streaming – Fancode
Match timings – 10:00 AM local time (1:30 PM IST) (8:00 AM GMT)
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