Asela Gunaratne (R) and Dilruwan Perera on the final day of a one-off Test match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe at the R Premadasa Cricket Stadium in Colombo on July 18, 2017.
Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning run chase to keep their unbeaten record against Zimbabwe intact as Asela Gunaratne (80 not out) and Niroshan Dickwella (81) came up with match winning contributions at R. Premadasa Stadium yesterday.
When Sri Lanka were set a target of 388 runs to win, there was little hope as no team had chased that many to win a Test match in Sri Lanka. Resuming from the overnight score of 170 for three, Sri Lanka were soon in trouble slumping to 203 for five with both Kusal Mendis (66) and Angelo Mathews (25) back in the pavilion.
Gunaratne, who is nursing a hamstring injury then walked in to join Dickwella and the pair turned the game in Sri Lanka’s favour with clever batting.
While the 24-year-old Dickwella took the attack onto the Zimbabweans with his sweeps and reverse sweeps, Gunaratne, seven years his senior, was cheeky rotating the strike with clever placement.
This is now not only the highest run chase in Sri Lanka but in Asia as well.
There was some controversy with Dickwella on 37, as a stumping was referred to the television umpire. The batsman was ruled not out and Zimbabwe expressed their disappointment. But they had only themselves to blame as the batsmen were left off the hook more than once. Dickwella was dropped by the wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva when he was on 64.
Zimbabwe had an aggressive field hoping for wickets, but once the target fell below double digits the field spread and the Sri Lankans played some smart cricket.
Dickwella went onto post his career best score and had a century for the taking but his most productive stroke – the reverse sweep – brought about his downfall as well.
The reverse sweep is for Dickwella what the hook shot was for Aravinda de Silva. The hook remained Aravinda’s bread and butter and his undoing. (What a pity that none play the hook shot thesedays). Dickwella instead of giving up the reverse sweep should master it.
During the knock he also showed signs that he has the ability to take up responsibility and perhaps we are seeing another future Sri Lanka captain in action.
Amidst the win, Sri Lanka will be glad that two of their inexperienced players – Dickwella in his seventh Test and Gunaratne in his fifth completed the run chase. Sri Lanka will now go in to the India series taking lot of confidence.
Dickwella departed with still 64 runs needed for the win. Sri Lanka were lucky that Dilruwan Perera was dropped on 13 by the wicketkeeper. He was outstanding from thereon as he gave solid support to Gunaratne to finish off the run chase.
Tea was delayed with Sri Lanka 11 runs short of the target. The win was achieved when Perera drove Sean Ervine for four to give himself a nice birthday present four days before his 35th birthday.