Sri Lanka rode on superb batting shows from Kusal Perera and Kaushal Silva, while Zimbabwe lamented dropped risks as the guests picked up the high ground by close of play on the main day of the principal Test at the Harare Sports Club on Saturday (October 29).
Perera crushed his lady Test hundred off only 104 balls in what was a counter-assaulting thump. The way to his prosperity was that he never checked his impulses, in spite of losing accomplices. Skipper Graeme Cremer was the pick of the bowlers on a day where the hosts let themselves down on the field in what was their 100th Test.
It all began in the second over of the day, when debutant Carl Mumba, the 100th player to represent Zimbabwe in Test cricket, shared the new ball attack. The first ball was bang on target, hitting the corridor of uncertainty. It moved off the seam, bounced extra and opened up left-handed Dimuth Karunaratne, before taking the shoulder of the bat and flying towards gully. It seemed a routine catch initially but Sean Williams, who was under it had to backpedal and in the end grassed an overhead left-handed attempt. It was not just that catch that went down, but also the golden opportunity for Mumba to become the first Zimbabwean player to pick a wicket off the first ball in Test cricket.
A while later, Karunaratne’s opening partnership with Silva gained steam – the duo managed an average of one boundary per over for the next eight overs – after the latter escaped a heart-in-the-mouth moment with a tight LBW call.
Post lunch, Silva recorded his twelfth Test fifty and afterward the hundred association was raised, before Karunaratne excessively raised his bat for a ninth Test fifty. With the couple draining the rocking the bowling alley, things searched inauspicious for the hosts, however Cremer figured out how to reject Karunaratne against the keep running of play – a delicate expulsion as the batsman chipped an endeavored back foot punch straight to short mid-wicket to end his 123-run affiliation.
In came Kusal Janith Perera at the vital No. 3 position, however much to his dismay that he would articulate, “I like batting in the top-arrange. I cherish batting against quick bowlers,” as a centurion later in the day. Perera, who demonstrated his batting on Sanath Jayasuriya, made his positive aim clear when he furiously cut the second ball he confronted for four, along these lines opening his record in style.
At that point came a stage where Zimbabwe truly slacked as a handling unit. In a space of nine overs, wicketkeeper Peter Moor dropped Perera (on 15) first and after that Silva (on 89) next, before Perera was dropped again on 30, this time an intense catch in the profound was put around the plunging Malcolm Waller. Between the missed possibilities, the left-hander even sent two or three sixes taking off over the limit. Exactly at the stroke of tea, a run-out possibility was lightened off Silva, however he wouldn’t go ahead to hurt the hosts severely as part-clock Waller snaffled him six runs shy of what might have been consecutive Test hundreds for him – Silva was returning on the of a 115 against Australia at the SSC.
It was good to see a couple of Zimbabweans console Silva on the way back to the dressing room, for it was another soft dismissal. Nothing deterred Perera at the other end though. He smacked as many as seven boundaries in a space of 15 balls, also going past fifty in the process. Just as Sri Lanka looked set to get another big partnership in, Cremer sent back Kusal Mendis to end an 84-run stand for the third wicket.
In the next over came the big moment for Perera, who was now in company of Upul Tharanga. A Donald Tiripano freebie was thrashed through the off-side and thus came the maiden Test hundred – the second fastest ton for a Sri Lankan against Zimbabwe. “I was not thinking about the hundred. I was just trying to do my best and took some calculated risks,” a humble Perera would react at stumps.
Cremer and Co. opted not to go for the new ball straightaway at the end of 80 overs and the move worked well for them as Perera was dismissed by the captain himself just as Sri Lanka crossed 300. The new nut was in Christopher Mpofu’s hands in the very next over, though it did not do any further damage as Tharanga and Dhananjaya de Silva were able to see off the remaining overs.
The day could have much better for Zimbabwe had the bowlers been consistent enough when there was a bit of assistance from the surface, and more importantly, been sharper with their fielding and reviews. Cremer would have liked more support from his bowling partners. Sri Lanka won’t mind though, for they made good use of the chances they got to end the first day of the two-Test series with a smile on their faces.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 317/4 (Kusal Perera 110, Kaushal Silva 94, Dimuth Karunaratne 56; Graeme Cremer 3-82, Malcolm Waller 1-25) vs Zimbabwe