Nic Pothas, Sri Lanka’s interim coach, feels the R Premadasa pitch has changed ‘quite a bit’ after Sikandar Raza and Malcolm Waller batted Zimbabwe to a good position at the end of third day’s play in the ongoing one-off Test.

After conceding a 10-run lead in the first innings, Sri Lanka began the second innings on a superb note with left-arm spinner Rangana Herath running out. Sri Lanka’s spin spearhead dismissed Zimbabwe’s top three cheaply to reduce the visitors to 17 for 3 before Dilruwan Perera accounted for the in-form Craig Ervine to leave the visitors reeling at 23 for 4. A 36-run stand between Sean Williams and Raza stopped the rot for a while but Herath struck once again to put the hosts in the commanding position.

Image credits: AFP

But the Sri Lankan bowlers then let Zimbabwe get off the hook as useful contributions from Peter Moor (40), Malcolm Waller (57*) and the sublime knock of 97 not out from Raza saw Zimbabwe adding 193 runs for the loss of just a solitary wicket as they finished the day on 252 for 6 with the overall lead extended to 262.

Speaking after the day’s play, Pothas, while admitting that Zimbabwe batsmen played well, said that it became tough for the bowlers to make an impact once the hardness of the ball disappeared.

“Once the hardness went out of the ball, it obviously became a bit more difficult. I thought (Sikandar) Raza played really well, as did (Peter) Moor and (Malcolm) Waller. But our guys were phenomenal. They did their jobs. I thought the quality of the fielding was superb. They stuck to their job. It hasn’t been easy,” Pothas said.

“The pitch has changed quite a bit. Once the hardness went out of the ball today, it didn’t seem like it did as much as yesterday. Yesterday and day one it spun. You just need to come up with plans to score, and how you’re going to get wickets. It hasn’t been anything to write home about. Today it was surprising that it didn’t do as much as expected, but we just need to find a way of getting wickets,” he added.

Image credits: AFP

With Raza and Waller already sharing over 100 runs for the seventh wicket, Sri Lanka will have their task cut out on the fourth day and Pothas said the second new ball was the best weapon against the remaining batsmen.

“There are 12 more overs with the old ball, and then we get a new ball again. We’ll have to have a chat tonight and see what kind of plan we come up with for tomorrow morning. One step at a time. We need to take four wickets, and once we do that, whatever the target that is set we need to go out and chase. There’s plenty of time left in the game,” he said.

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