Zimbabwe were just four wickets away from ending their sojourn in Sri Lanka in the best-possible manner as they would have registered their first ever Test win against the island nation. Buoyed by the historic Test ODI series win, Graeme Cremer and Co. had given an inspired performance on the first four days of the game and had their fancied opponents on the mat.
After taking a slender 10 runs lead in the first innings, the visitors led by Sikandar Raza’s stunning century scored 377 to set a daunting 388. However, the experience of playing Test cricket played a significant part on the final day, as Sri Lanka chased down the highest ever score in Asia to win the one-off Test series. With Sri Lanka reeling at 203 for 5 on a deteriorating fifth-day pitch, Zimbabwe must have fancied their chances but Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne’s half-centuries helped the hosts to get off the hook and create a record.
Speaking after the game, Cremer said his team was confident of picking up the last 7 wickets on the final day before heaping praise on his teammates for the performance on the tour.
“We thought 388 was going to be tough – especially on the last day. We had picked up three wickets yesterday so we only needed to pick up seven today. It has been a sort of a rollercoaster of emotions. But I am still proud of the way the guys played and the way they fought. I’m very proud of the way the guys played to win an ODI series here. Then push them in the Test match and almost beat them, and into the fifth afternoon – it’s a good effort from our boys,” Cremer said.
Zimbabwe had begun the day on a perfect note with Cremer dismissing the overnight batsmen in the first hour itself to reduce the hosts to 203 for 5. 34 runs later, Zimbabwe should have got another wicket when a close decision went in Sri Lanka’s favour. Dickwella was looking stumped out but the third umpire gave his decision in the favour of the batsman.
“From what I saw, I honestly didn’t see any doubt as to why he shouldn’t be out,” Cremer said. “It’s just one of those things. If you’ve got technology, it clearly shows it. It happens to us quite a lot as well, we feel. It’s tough when those things go against you, especially when you are trying to win a Test match on the last day.”
After proving their potential in the recently concluded series, Cremer hopes that his team plays more cricket against top nations in coming days.
“Even before this Test match our Managing Director said he wanted to push for more Test cricket and more cricket in general. We have shown that we can push big teams even away from home. We have West Indies coming to us for two tests in October, and we’re confident of pushing them because we’re playing in Zimbabwe. Ireland and Afghanistan are also competitive teams, so now that they have Test status, I’m hoping we get more cricket,” he concluded.
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