Sikandar Raza's career-best seven-wicket haul put Zimbabwe in firm control on the third day in Harare, before rain intervened once again to again towards the end of day's play. Raza's 7 for 113 was instrumental in bowling out Sri Lanka for 293, with the hosts picking a 113-run lead, which they extended to 175 by the end of Wednesday (January 29).
Sri Lanka lost four wickets in the middle session with Raza denting the visitors' endeavour of getting close to their first-innings total of 406 with three strikes. Angelo Mathews, who had held fort since the start of the day, kept the visitors afloat with a crafty half-century, but didn't find any support at the other end. He was thus, forced to take more risks to get as many runs as possible which eventually cost him his wicket.
Having had lost three wickets in the opening session, Niroshan Dickwella fell in the second over after Lunch as Raza got his fifer. Suranga Lakmal and Mathews resisted Raza, who bowled relentlessly through the day, but couldn't keep him at bay for long before the former flicked to midwicket for a dolly. Mathews fell for a crafty 64 soon after, with Sri Lanka well-behind in the game at that stage. Sri Lanka's final pair, though, were in no mood to surrender meekly. They faced 67 balls together, adding 25 runs even, before Victor Nyauchi wrapped up the innings, with Zimbabwe picking up a strong lead.
Openers Prince Masvaure and Craig Ervine added 32 before Fernando sent back the latter. Masvaure and Regis Chakabva thereafter extended their lead with an unbeaten 30-run partnership as Zimbabwe's lead approached 200. Rain was predicted in the latter half of the day, but arrived only in the final hour with just over nine overs remaining. Play was eventually called off as the downpour got heavier with Zimbabwe at 62/1.
Earlier in the day, Mathews led Sri Lanka's reply as they ate into the deficit. Despite losing Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal early on, and Dhananjaya de Silva on the brink of the break, they trailed by 180 going into Lunch after having started the day on 122 for 2. Mathews led the way once again, along with Kusal to keep Zimbabwe's bowlers at bay.
It wasn't until a freak dismissal that Zimbabwe got Kusal, but lost fielder Kevin Kasuza in the process who was struck on the head and was sent for subsequent scans. A half-tracker from Sikandar Raza was pulled flush into the helmet of the forward short leg fielder, Kasuza, the deflection from which rose to the square leg fielder, Mumba, who completed the catch. Although Zimbabwe made inroads, they were quite concerned with Kasuza being carried off the field. He was ruled out subsequently, for a second time in as many games, after being diagnosed with a mild concussion, with Timycen Maruma coming in as his replacement.
Raza then struck in his next over to get Chandimal, putting an end to the batsman's panicked stay in the middle with a return catch. Mathews thereafter, with Dhananjaya de Silva, added over fifty runs for the fifth wicket, letting the latter take on the bowling, while the pair rotated the strike well to keep the scoreboard ticking. Raza picked up his fourth wicket, ending the 84-run stand heading into Lunch, knocking de Silva's stumps out for 42, who was looking to slog a few. Sri Lanka showed great discipline against the pacers but were a tad too aggressive at times against spin, which cost them two batsmen - Mendis and de Silva - in the opening session.
Brief scores: Zimbabwe 406 & 62/1 lead Sri Lanka 293 (Karunaratne 44, Fernando 44, Angelo Mathews 64; Sikandar Raza 7-113) by 175 runs.