Sri Lanka stole to their target for the second time this tour, scoring the winning runs off the last ball to deny a tenacious Zimbabwe defence of a modest target. A top-edged four off the bat of No. 9 Dushmantha Chameera and a chip into the legside outfield were the final acts of a chase in which Sri Lanka had struggled to stay afloat.

Angelo Mathews, playing his first T20I in almost three years, had produced the most substantial Sri Lankan innings, making 46 off 38 to take the game deep. Dasun Shanaka was not out on 26 off 18, having also struck important boundaries.

Their work overtook Zimbabwe captain Sikandar Raza’s outstanding all-round efforts. Raza had first made 62 off 42 with the bat, then claimed 3 for 13 with the ball – both the most runs, and best figures in the game. But just as they had been pipped at the finish in the second ODI, earlier on tour, Zimbabwe were left visibly dejected again.

The final over

The experienced pair of Mathews and Shanaka had come together at the end of the 14th over, with 61 to get off 36 balls, and no recognised batters to come. As such they had batted sagely, picking off boundaries and keeping the requirement manageable, with well-calculated boundaries.

When it came to the final over, bowled by Blessing Muzarabani who had been economical thus far, Sri Lanka needed 12. Mathews went deep in his crease and clattered Muzarabani down the ground for a one-bounce four first ball – the bowler punished for missing his yorker. Then, expecting Muzarabani to go short, Mathews stayed on his back foot and played a delectable late cut that bisected the keeper and short third for another four.

Sri Lanka only required six off four now, but Muzarabani would bowl a dot ball, and then have Mathews hole out to deep midwicket, trying to hit the game-winning six.

Some of what happened next was pure luck. Muzarabani went at Chameera’s body, and the ball took a top edge and sailed over the wicketkeeper as the batter swiped at it. Last ball, a fullish one, Chameera chipped towards deep midwicket, and the batters scampered the last two.

Raza rocks it with the bat…

Raza arrived at the crease just after the powerplay, took a few balls to get settled, then began to open his shoulders. Three fours – all square of the wicket – off Chameera in the ninth over, was his first serious statement. He was then methodical during a 45-run third-wicket stand with Sean Williams while the spinners operated (he was just 31 off 27 balls at one stage), before adopting a more aggressive mode again once Williams departed. He slog-swept Wanindu Hasaranga over the deep midwicket boundary, smoked Nuwan Thushara down the ground to get past 50, and reaped 31 runs off the last 15 balls he faced.

…and with the ball

With Richard Ngarava, Wellington Masakadza, and Blessing Muzarabani all having claimed a wicket in the powerplay, Sri Lanka were already reeling when Raza came on to bowl. He then delivered an excellent spell that decked the rest of the top order. He clipped the top of Sadeera Samarawickrama’s off stump with a sharp offbreak first ball, before in his final over, having Charith Asalanka caught off a leading edge, then sending a skidding offbreak into the stumps of Wanindu Hasaranga. He’d conceded only a single boundary in his four overs.

Sri Lanka’s spinners keep a lid on Zimbabwe’s scoring

Though Zimbabwe lost two powerplay wickets, the Raza-Williams partnership had delivered them to a decent position in the middle overs. Maheesh Theekshana – who had taken those powerplay wickets – conceded only 11 in his last two overs. New captain Wanindu Hasaranga took 2 for 19 himself, and finished with excellent figures of 2 for 19, bowling entirely through the middle.

Sri Lanka’s excellent ground fielding also helped rein the scoring in.

Source: ESPNCricinfo


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