For a brief period on the second morning, Zimbabwe made run-scoring look strenuous. For whatever remains of the day, Sri Lanka’s batsmen appreciated a tranquil Harare surface and a tiring knocking down some pins assault to heap on 537. Upul Tharanga, showing commendable persistence, received the most benefits on the second day to score to his second Test ton, an unbeaten 110.
Tharanga drained the knocking down some pins for the larger part of his innings, exploiting anything short with cuts and touches behind square on the off side. With legspinner Graeme Cremer hindering that alternative by knocking down some pins a more full length, Tharanga cleared, a flung hurl over midwicket raising his fifty. When he was set, the drives turned out and their planning was magnificent.
Tharanga was helped by debutant Asela Gunaratne, who tried out for a normal spot in the Test squad with 54 off 102 balls, accumulated with a smaller strategy and a capacity to move the field. A tight divert only outside off didn’t conflict with him: he frequently opened the face to direct limits either side of crevasse.
But, soon after becoming the 18th Sri Lankan batsman to score a fifty on his Test debut, Gunaratne misjudged the length of a short delivery from left-arm spinner Sean Williams. A leading edge off an attempted pull was taken at midwicket.
Zimbabwe were sloppy in the field again: Peter Moor missed a stumping and dropped two more catches, in addition to his two spills on the first day. Tharanga was given a life when he checked a drive off Donald Tiripano, but Tino Mawoyo at cover could not hold on to a catch low to his left. It was a disheartening spell of play, especially considering how well Zimbabwe had bowled in the morning.
Seamers Chris Mpofu and Mumba kept the ball well outside the off stump and asking overnight batsmen Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva to play away from their body if they wanted runs. The batsmen were content in seeing off their opening spell though and only occasionally wafted at the bowlers’ invitingly wide deliveries.
In their recent Test series against New Zealand, Zimbabwe’s bowlers displayed competence in consistency but weren’t able to ‘bore’ batsmen for long enough. Newly-appointed coach Heath Streak may have already turned that around. Barring the sporadic overpitched delivery, the bowlers repeatedly hit the same lines and lengths which meant Zimbabwe conceded only 50 runs in the first 24 overs of the morning. And that led to De Silva, on 15 runs in 55 balls, to step out to Cremer. He failed to get to the pitch of the ball, went through with the stroke and ended up skewing a catch long-off.
Zimbabwe had another great spell of play towards the end of the day. There were 23 overs to go for stumps however the batsmen – regardless of a monstrous shortfall – were sure from the start, shimmying down the track or clearing hard regardless of the possibility that they weren’t to the pitch of the ball, especially against Rangana Herath. They completed the second day at 88 for 1, trailing by 449 runs.
There wasn’t much turn for the spinners; most conveyances slid on with the arm. One such conveyance from Herath rapped opener Brian Chari on the cushion before leg stump. Umpire Simon Fry raised the finger however it appeared the ball may have been sliding down with the edge. Sri Lanka could have included another wicket in the following over, with Suranga Lakmal prompting Hamilton Masakadza into an extensive drive. The subsequent outside edge, however, was dropped by Dimuth Karunaratne at first slip. Masakadza, with 33 off 50 balls and Tino Mawoyo, with 41 off 74 balls and, took Zimbabwe to stumps.