Kusal Mendis fought through what seemed like severe cramping to make an unbeaten 60 at the close of play on Day 4 of the only Test between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. Sri Lanka ended the day on 170/3, chasing 388.
Mendis’ cramps first arrived on his bottom hand but as the innings progressed he was brought to ground as his legs began cramping towards the end of the day. Despite this, he remained at the crease until the end of the day’s play alongside Angelo Mathews as the hosts finished the day 218 runs short of the target of 388 set for them.
Sri Lanka’s opening pair of Upul Tharanga put on a good stand but once again fell after a break as Graeme Cremer had the former caught at short leg with the score on 58. Karunaratne looked good for a big score but was bowled by a Seam Williams delivery that spun from way outside the off stump.
With his dismissal the onus was on skipper Dinesh Chandimal to deliver the goods, however it was not to be as Cremer got the better of his counterpart for the 2nd time in the game. Chandimal was drawn forward to a ball spinning away from him and edged it straight to slip where Hamilton Masakadza took a good low catch.
Angelo Mathews was cautious in the middle while Kusal Mendis looked to use the sweep against Williams who was spinning the ball prodigiously off the rough.
Earlier in the day, Sikandar Raza made a magnificent 127 as Zimbabwe continued to build their lead. The other overnight batsman Malcolm Waller too looked set for a big score but fell to a loose delivery from Dilruwan Perera. He managed to hit a short ball going down the legside straight to Upul Tharanga at deep mid-wicket to end an invaluable 144 run partnership with Raza.
Raza began to look for a few shots following his ton but his attempt to reverse sweep enabled the ball to sneak through his defenses giving Rangana Herath his 31st 5 wicket haul in Tests. After the lunch break Dilruwan and Herath picked up a wicket apiece to end Zimbabwe’s innings, but not before they had stretched their lead up to 387.
Interesting to note that the Zimbabwean spinners seemed to get a lot more bite off the pitch in comparison to the hosts’ spinners who struggled to create opportunities in the 1st session of play.
If Sri Lanka are to chase down the target, it would be the highest successful run-chase in Tests in Sri Lanka, surpassing the 382 by Pakistan in Galle. Sri Lanka’s highest successful run chase at home came back in 2006, when they made 352 against South Africa.