Sri Lanka's bowlers were rewarded for their toil on the final day of the first Test in Harare, bowling Zimbabwe out for 170, which in turn set their batsmen a mere 14 runs to chase to go 1-0 in the two-Test series.
Led by Suranga Lakmal, Sri Lanka did well to keep Zimbabwe in check, drying up the runs as the hosts were seeking to bat out the day for a draw. However, late wickets in the final session with the batsmen undone by the sheer pace of Lahiru Kumara had Zimbabwe bowled out just as they had taken the lead, which could eventually stretch to just 13 before the batsmen could resist no more. Sri Lanka's openers completed formalities with little fuss as the visitors went up in the series with a ten-wicket win.
The equation was quite straightforward going into the final day's play in Harare: Zimbabwe had to bat 90 overs to see through the day to eke out a draw, or Sri Lanka had to pick ten wickets after the visitors made a declaration late on Day 4 on 515/9.
Lakmal dismissed the overnight batsmen in the first 20 minutes of play, as Zimbabwe lost three wickets in the space of five overs. Lakmal struck off his second ball of the day as Prince Masvaure poked at one that slightly shaped away, but enough to hand a regulation catch to Niroshan Dickwella. It was just the second over of the day and Sri Lanka had their tails up.
Lakmal then went on to pick another two in successive overs. An inswinger did Mudzinganyama in, who shouldered his arms to be trapped plumb in front, before Craig Ervine went hard on the flick to mistime it to short mid-wicket as Zimbabwe were reduced to 41/3.
Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams then kept Zimbabwe afloat with a fifty-run stand, resisting the Sri Lankan bowlers with their positive intent, rotating the strike well and finding the boundaries to snatch back the momentum that the visitors had on the back of those wickets. In a passage of play as they reached the 100-run mark, they scored at a rate of close to six an over. Both Taylor and Williams were not shy to sweep the spinners, picking up the majority of their boundaries against Lasith Embuldeniya. Anything short with a bit of width wasn't spared either as the pair stretched the stand to 79.
However, post Lunch Lakmal once again made inroads to deal Zimbabwe a double blow as the set pair departed in successive overs. He broke the stand between Taylor and Williams in the first over after Lunch, getting the former to drive at one just outside off to hand an easy catch to silly mid-on. One brought two with Williams poking at one to edge to the keeper in the next over as both batsmen were back in the hut soon after the break.
Sikander Raza and Regis Chakabva thereafter joined hands to very skilfully make Sri Lanka's bowlers try everything in their book. Lakmal was relentless in his ploy to pitch the ball just outside off, luring the batsmen to drive. The pair, however, was strong in defence and happy to leave anything that wasn't in that territory. Embuldeniya, however, in the final half an hour of the second session had Raza stumped for 17, ending the pair's stoic defiance to take Sri Lanka a step closer to victory.
The finishing touches came in the final session with the pace of Kumara being the undoing of the Zimababwe batsmen as the runs dried up. After the aggressive stand between Taylor and Williams that took Zimbabwe to 120 when both fell, the hosts only managed to score 30 runs after that, on a track that was far from unplayable. But that was enough to concede a lead of just 13, which was no challenge for Sri Lanka in the end. Lakmal finished with four wickets, while Lahiru Kumara had three to wrap up the tail.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 358 & 170 (Brendan Taylor 38, Sean Williams 39; Suranga Lakmal 4-27, Lahiru Kumara 3-32) lost to Sri Lanka 515/9 dec (Angelo Mathews 200*; Sikandar Raza 3-62) & 14/0 by 10 wickets.