Concussion substitutes can have a significant say in the outcome of a Test. Marnus Labuschagne helped Australia draw the Ashes Test at Lord's and now is a permanent fixture in the Australian setup. By the end of day four in Harare on Wednesday (January 22), uncapped Brian Mudzinganyama found himself with a sudden and nerve-wracking opportunity. With Kevin Kasuza ruled out of the first Test because of a concussion, the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Mudzinganyama to help Zimbabwe save the Test.
Mudzinganyama was unbeaten on 14 off 51 at stumps. Zimbabwe were 30 for no loss - still trailing by 127 - after Angelo Mathews struck his maiden Test double to give the visitors a first-innings lead of 157. Sri Lanka declared on 515 for 9 with Mathews unbeaten on 200 off 468. The day belonged to him as he struck a ton after ten innings and converted it to his career-best.
Sri Lanka came into the day with 295 on the board and six wickets in hand. Mathews and Dhananjaya de Silva took the side past 320 as they forged a 98-run stand for the fifth wicket. De Silva fell for 63 in the first session as Sri Lanka bagged a 12-run lead. It was Niroshan Dickwella's turn to partner Mathews from there on as they stitched an alliance of 136 runs. Dickwella too made 63, with some luck going his way after being dropped early in his innings, but his solid hand kept the pressure on the hosts.
The first landmark of the day went to de Silva as he completed his half-century in the 108th over after Sri Lanka started the day on 295 for 4. Mathews completed his century seven overs later - off 272 balls - to ensure Sri Lanka looked set to up the ante. That plan, though, was jolted as Victor Nyauchi claimed his third wicket and sent back de Silva. He was caught at mid-on trying to force the pace. Things could have been slightly in favour of Zimbabwe had Regis Chakabva not put down Mathews in the 124th over. The batsman got a thick outside edge trying to cut a length delivery only for the 'keeper to grass the opportunity. He was in trouble once again against Ainsley Ndlovu in the 128th over as he almost chopped back a delivery onto the stumps before it bounced back.
After a lengthy toil, there were reasons to cheer for Zimbabwe as well in the third session. As Mathews neared his double ton, Sikandar Raza struck on consecutive deliveries to remove Suranga Lakmal and Lasith Embuldeniya to leave the visitors nervous. Mathews's moment, though, came in the 176th over as he crashed Raza for a boundary to complete his double ton off 468 balls.
Mudzinganyama and Prince Masvaure then saw off the day to give Zimbabwe hope.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe358 & 30/0 trail Sri Lanka 515/9 dec (Angelo Mathews 200*; Sikandar Raza 3-62) by 127 runs.