Skipper Angelo Mathews and his men will have to blame themselves after Zimbabwe escaped with a four-wicket win on Duckworth and Lewis system in their rain-affected fourth ODI here at the Sooriyawewa Cricket Stadium on Saturday.
Chasing 301 to win, the tourists were 139 for the loss of three wickets when rain halted play in the 21st over of Zimbabwe’s inning. Their score was nine runs above the Duckworth/Lewis par score of 130 at that stage but they were given a revised target of 219 in 31 overs when play resumed an hour later. They needed 80 runs off the remaining ten overs which they erased comfortably with 10 balls to spare.
Craig Ervine was the protagonist of tourists win as he plundered a match winning 69 off 55 balls with eight boundaries and a six, despite rookie spinner Wanindu Hasaranga claiming his second three wicket haul in the series. Ervine sealed the match with a paddle sweep off Lakshan Sandakan whose 3.2 overs cost a staggering 45 runs. Zimbabwe had solid start to their innings when openers Solomon Mire and Hamilton Masakadza put on 67 runs inside 10 overs to lay the foundation.
The defeat was a bitter pill to stomach for the hosts who were eyeing for a series clinching win ahead of Monday’s fifth and final ODI. Sri Lanka’s recent record across all formats has been mediocre and were looking for a convincing win to boost their confidence and that of the disheartened fans ahead of the grueling Indian series later this month.
With the series now levelled at 2-2, the pressure will be on hosts as they approach the series decider on Monday to win their first series in 12 months. Sri Lanka’s last series win came against Ireland in June last year.
“Bowling was once again disappointing. How many times can you lose a game after scoring 300 runs,” Mathews asked.
Sri Lanka operated with three seamers—Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera and debutant Asitha Fernando whose maiden ball was hit over fine leg boundary by Solomon Mire, but their performances were far from impressive.
Opting to bat first, Sri Lankan openers were on song for the second time in a row, sharing a world record double century stand for the opening wicket, laying a solid foundation for what would have been an imposing total.
But Sri Lanka squandered the momentum given to them by the openers to put an imposing total on board as they managed just 91 runs off the last 14.4 overs to restrict themselves to 300 for six.
Niroshan Dickwella, who scored his second back-to-back century, shared 209 for the opening wicket with Danushka Gunathilaka to become only the first pair in ODI history to share two double century stands in a row. They scored 229 in the third game against Zimbabwe which Sri Lanka won by eight-wickets.
The pair batted with great aggression, tearing hapless Zimbabwean bowling attack apart, as they continue their onslaught in grand style. Both were reprieved once each in the space of three deliveries by the fielders, but by then they had sealed the double century stand, a feat no other pair had done before.
Dickwella reached his second ODI hundred off 99 balls with a single towards square leg and became only the eighth Sri Lankan batsman to score back-to-back centuries. Malcolm Waller best among the Zimbabwean bowlers finally broke the threatening stand by sending Gunathilaka back to the pavilion.
By then the senior opener had hit 87 runs with seven hits to the ropes. His partner Dickwella followed soon when he was trapped leg-before by Waller when the batsman attempted to reverse sweep. He made a career high 116 off 118 with 8 boundaries.
When Gunathilaka departed, skipper Angelo Mathews promoted himself up the order and with Upul Tharanga, they added a brisk 41 off 36 balls for the third wicket, it was hardly the spark they were looking at, towards the end of the innings. Mathews was dismissed off the last ball of the innings for 42 off 40 balls as Sri Lanka ended their innings on 300, much lower than what they would have expected batting first on a good batting track.
Tharanga hit 22 off 20 while Wanindu Hasaranga remained unbeaten on 19. Chris Mpofu and Waller took two wickets each.
Angelo Mathews: "I thought 300 was enough but credit to Zimbabwe. I moved up to get the momentum after Dickwella and Dhanushka. The wicket slowed up a bit but the shot selection was poor too. It's been an interesting series so far. Zimbabwe have played really well. We need to step up,"
Graeme Cremer: "We knew we were ahead of the rate, and that we were in the game during the rain. Our batting was excellent. The pressures of winning a series does not put pressure on us. We can put up scores as well as chase them. Our final ten overs were excellent. Our bowlers really pulled it back.
Sri Lanka Innings
Niroshan Dickwella lbw b Waller 116
Danushka Gunathilaka b Waller 87
Angelo Mathews c H. Masakadza b Chatara 42
Upul Tharanga b Raza 22
Asela Gunaratne c Williams b Mpofu 1
Kusal Mendis c Waller b Mpofu 0
Wanidu Hasaranga not out 19
Extras (b-1 lb-1 w-11) 13
Total (for 6 wickets, 50 overs) 300
Fall of wickets: 1-209 D. Gunathilaka,2-216 N. Dickwella,3-257 U. Tharanga,4-260 A. Gunaratne,5-263 K. Mendis,6-300 A. Mathews
Did not bat: L. Malinga, A. Fernando, D. Chameera, L. Sandakan
C. Mpofu 9 - 0 - 61 - 2(w-4)
T. Chatara 5 - 0 - 32 - 1(w-2)
S. Raza 9 - 0 - 56 - 1(w-1)
S. Williams 5 - 0 - 37 - 0
S. Mire 3 - 0 - 21 - 0(w-2)
G. Cremer 9 - 0 - 47 - 0
M. Waller 10 - 0 - 44 - 2(w-1)
H. Masakadza b Hasaranga 28
S. Mire c Mathews b Hasaranga 43
T. Musakanda c Dickwella b Chameera 30
C. Ervine not out 69
S. Williams st Dickwella b Gunaratne 6
S. Raza c&b Hasaranga 10
M. Waller c Gunathilaka b Sandakan 20
P. Moor not out 0
Extras (b-4 lb-1 w-8) 13
Total (for 6 wickets, 29.2 overs) 219
Fall of wickets: 1-67 H. Masakadza,2-82 S. Mire,3-128 T. Musakanda,4-145 S. Williams,5-172 S. Raza,6-215 M. Waller
Did not bat: G. Cremer, C. Mpofu, T. Chatara
Lasith Malinga 4 - 1 - 18 - 0
Asitha Fernando 2 - 0 - 22 - 0
Dushmantha Chameera 5 - 0 - 32 - 1(w-1)
Asela Gunaratne 7 - 0 - 41 - 1
Wanidu Hasaranga 6 - 0 - 40 - 3
Lakshan Sandakan 3.2 - 0 - 45 - 1(w-3)
Danushka Gunathilaka 2 - 0 - 16 - 0
Niroshan Dickwellaa and Danushka Gunathilaka are cruising smoothly as they put on a second successive 100-run unbeaten opening wicket stand against Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka are currently on 157 for no loss in 25 overs.
Right arm paceman Asitha Fernando made his debut as he replaced veteran injured seamer Nuwan Pardeep for the fourth ODI against Zimbabwe here at the Mahinda Rajapakse Stadium in Hambantota. Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Mathews won the toss and elected to bat first.
Pictures by Amila Gamage