Sean Williams registered his fifth ODI ton but the knock went in vain as Sri Lanka registered a five-wicket win in Pallekele yesterday (January 16) to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. Williams’ 87-ball 100 and Regis Chakabva’s 72 off 81 powered Zimbabwe to 296/9 after they opted to bat. Sri Lanka’s collective batting effort, led by Pathum Nissanka’s 75 off 71 and a 129-run fourth-wicket stand involving Dinesh Chandimal (75 off 91) and Charith Asalanka (71 off 68) helped Sri Lanka over the line with eight deliveries to spare.
Kusal Mendis and Nissanka hit the straps straightaway in the chase, with the former hitting six fours in the first seven overs. But the stand ended on 40 as Kusal Mendis was caught behind off Blessing Muzarabani while playing the cut. Nissanka and Kamindu Mendis were then involved in a useful partnership of 41 but Richard Ngarava bagged the wicket of the No. 3, whose attempt to play the dab resulted in an inside edge on to the stumps. Nissanka kept Sri Lanka on track, bringing up his fifty off 48 balls, and was supported well by Dinesh Chandimal as they brought up the first fifty-plus stand of the innings.
Zimbabwe also lost a review in the 21st over when Chandimal was rapped on the pads by an arm ball from Williams, with replays justifying the onfield decision of not out as the ball was missing leg stump. But a short while later Zimbabwe had success with the review and picked up the wicket of Nissanka, who went for a cut off Sikandar Raza but ended up edging it to Chakabva behind the stumps. Sri Lanka still kept abreast with the required rate thanks to Chandimal and Asalanka, who played out a few quiet overs before picking up pace. Muzarabani and Wesley Madhevere erred on the shorter side and ended up leaking boundaries while Asalanka also used the DRS to reverse an LBW decision off Ngarava’s bowling.
Sri Lanka went without a boundary for close to six overs with the asking rate crossing 6.5 by the time the 40th over was completed. During this time, Chandimal got to his 24th ODI fifty and ended the boundary drought with a slap over point off Tendai Chatara to bring the equation to 66 off the last 10 overs. He also came down the track to Williams to hit his first six while Asalanka struck a four off Muzarabani in the 43rd over off a top edge en route to a 57-ball 50. Ngarava bowled a barrage of short deliveries and eventually got Chandimal to pull one straight to midwicket. Asalanka took Sri Lanka closer before becoming the fifth to depart as Ngarava bagged his third. But the wicket did little to change the direction of the chase as Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne saw the hosts through in the penultimate over.
Earlier, Chakabva was put down by Asalanka at first slip off Nuwan Pradeep when he had scored only 2 and he made Sri Lanka pay for the miss as he put on an 80-run opening stand with Takudzwanashe Kaitano. Playing his first ODI, the 28-year-old Kaitano was the aggressor in the partnership while Chakabva took his time to get going. The stand, however, came to an end in the 15th over as Kaitano, who was put down by Pathum Nissanka at cover, could not capitalise on the reprieve as he failed to read a googly from Jeffrey Vandersay and was trapped in front.
Chakabva, meanwhile, started finding the fence regularly and got to his fourth ODI fifty, off 49 balls. Kamindu Mendis ended Craig Ervine’s stay by as the Zimbabwe captain got an inside edge on to the stumps but the visitors made steady progress as Chakabva and Williams put on a half-century stand. Williams scored at a strike rate of over 100 in the third wicket association while Chakabva was brisk as well, setting the platform for the side to finish with a good total. Chakabva’s innings came to an end when tried to sweep a Vandersay delivery but ended up gloving the ball to the ‘keeper, with Sri Lanka having to take the DRS route for the decision to go in their favour.
Williams did not allow Sri Lanka to gain momentum with the wicket as he received support from Sikandar Raza in a 46-run partnership to power Zimbabwe forward. A double-wicket over from Nuwan Pradeep and Wellington Masakadza’s run out left Williams to do most of the work in the death overs, and the experienced left-hander was up to the task as he targetted debutant Chamika Karunaratne who ended up conceding 16 in the 48th over. The 49th over, which was bowled by Pradeep, yielded only four runs as Williams brought up his fifth ODI ton. But he was bowled in the final over by Karunaratne, who also picked up the wicket of Blessing Muzarabani. Richard Ngarava finished off with a six and a four as Zimbabwe finished close to the 300 mark, which proved insufficient in the end.