Stand-in skipper Rangana Herath produced another sublime performance for his country with the ball as Sri Lanka thrashed Zimbabwe in the second of the two-match series in Harare on Thursday.
Coming into this series, it was expected that the hosts, who are not blessed with more than just a few opportunities in the five-day format over the course of a calendar year, will struggle against a side who recently whitewashed then number one ranked team Australia on their home soil, and so it proved to be.
From the start, it was Sri Lanka all the way as visitors 38-year-old captain won the toss and opted to bat first. The only time hosts looked in some sort of control was in the first session of the match, when Sri Lanka was four down at the score of 112.
However, things turned around completely with centuries from Asela Gunaratne (116), Dhananjaya de Silva (127) and half-century from experienced Upal Tharanga (79), which helped Islanders posting a mammoth 504 in their first innings.
For Zimbabwe, captain Graeme Cremer and fast-bowler Donald Tiripano picked three wickets each. In reply, Zimbabwe’s start to their first innings was nothing less than poor as they lost first two wickets inside six overs.But a 117-run third wicket partnership between opener Brian Chari (80) and Craig Ervine (64), gave a glimmer of hope to the Zimbabwean team, as the team started their struggle to avoid follow-on.
However, once Ervine departed by Lanka’s paceman Suranga Lakmal, host’s failed to establish much needed partnerships, resulting in loosing wickets at regular intervals and were eventually bowled out 272, as Herath picked up his first five-wicket haul of the series.Having a huge lead of 232, Sri Lanka was once again in a bit of trouble as they lost their first three wickets at the score of 44, but opener Dimuth Karunaratne stood his ground and played a gutsy knock of 88 off 208 balls, where he struck eight fours.
He was supported by some lower order resistance from middle-order batsman Gunuratne (39) and wicketkeeper batsman Kusal Perera (62), as Sri Lanka declared their second innings at the score of 258 for the loss of nine wickets, setting up mountain-like target of 491 for hosts to level he series.
Chasing the biggest target in the history of the game to win the match and level the series, there was not much contest to begin with, as hosts lost their first three wickets at the score 39, all thanks to magical bowling from skipper Herath.
Ervine, who finished as the highest scorer for Zimbabwe in the match, scored his second consecutive half-century, as he along with Sean William (45) showed some fight for the hosts and added 74 runs for the fourth wicket.Ervine finished as the top scorer of the innings with 72 runs off 121 balls, where he struck nine fours and one six.
Herath then completed hosts demolition with the figures of eight for 63 in the second innings, which led visitors to 257-run victory to seal the series 2-0.
The left-arm spinner, who finished the match with 13 wickets, was awarded man of the match and Karunaratne, for scoring the most number of runs (280) in two matches, was awarded man of the series.