Zimbabwe become first team to chase down 300+ in an ODI in Sri Lanka

Zimbabwe batsman Sikanda Raza Butt (C) celebrates a wicket during the sixth match in the Blue Mountain Achilleion tri-series played between West Indies and hosts Zimbabwe at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo, November 25, 2016. / AFP / Jekesai Njikizana (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Galle, June 30 (TNS): A belligerent 112 from Solomon Mire set Zimbabwe on track, Sean Williams’ 65 provided stability, and Sikandar Raza’s sparkling 67 not out laid out the finishing touches as a fearless Zimbabwe ran down Sri Lanka’s score of 316 to make history in Galle.

Not only was this Zimbabwe’s first ODI victory against Sri Lanka on the island, it was also the first time any team successfully pursued a score in excess of 300. In the end, the chase seemed virtually nerveless. Raza and Malcolm Waller accelerated through the final overs to reach the target with the only six of the innings, with 14 balls to spare and six wickets in hand.

Nothing Sri Lanka tried in the back half of the innings worked. Angelo Mathews tried switching his bowlers haphazardly, bringing his wicket-takers back early, and bowled seven men in the innings, but none could shake Zimbabwe’s resolve.

As ever, dropped catches will haunt Sri Lanka. Mire was dropped on 17 and 94 – the first of those a difficult opportunity to the wicketkeeper, but the second a straightforward chance to Lasith Malinga, who made a mess of an overhead catch from short fine leg. Williams was also dropped on 13 by Danushka Gunathilaka at point. Had that chance been taken, Williams and Mire would only have had 37 together. Instead, their third-wicket stand of 161 off 133 balls would form the spine of Zimbabwe’s rousing victory.

Perhaps you could argue that Sri Lanka should have scored more than 78 in the last 10 overs, given the number of wickets they had in hand, but that is a minor quibble. With Kusal Mendis hitting 86, Gunathilaka joining him for a century stand, and Upul Tharanga making 79 not out, the batsmen largely did their part.

Zimbabwe’s innings began inauspiciously, Hamilton Masakadza gloving a legside Malinga ball to the wicketkeeper, before Craig Ervine top-edged a sweep off Akila Dananjaya to deep square leg just after the first Powerplay had finished. With the score at 46 for 2 in the 11th over, 317 looked distant indeed. But in that same over, Mire hit successive boundaries, and followed those up with a reverse sweep for four soon after.

Suddenly, batting began to appear much easier. Mire and Williams rotated the strike fluently, and Sri Lanka’s two inexperienced spinners were perhaps guilty of a little indiscipline – Aponso particularly expensive through those early overs. Dananjaya at least seemed to draw regular mistakes from the batsmen, and perhaps could have been used more intensively when Sri Lanka were searching for wickets. By the time he was brought back, the match had largely slipped.