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Zimbabwe Development XI seal series with thrilling win over Sri Lanka

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In what was an enthralling match, with the result always in doubt until the final over, the Zimbabwean team completed an exciting 14-run victory at Harare Sports Club on Monday. Both sides suffered top-order batting collapses, followed by a recovery from the middle order.  Brian Chari, the scourge of Sri Lanka, was the sole success in Zimbabwe’s top order, making another invaluable fifty.

Carl Mumba this time did not star with the ball, although he finished with a vital wicket at the death, but he made his mark with a crucial innings of 40 not out. 

The Sri Lankans won the toss again, but this time put Zimbabwe in to bat on a warm sunny morning. The pitch was slightly green in colour and gave the bowlers a little movement all through the match. Both sides made several changes to their team, bringing in new players from their squads.

Off the very first ball of the match, Kevin Kasuza pushed at the ball outside the off stump and edged it to the keeper, off the bowling of Kasun Madushanka.

Chari, though, was in fine form from the start, scoring 11 runs off the first four balls he faced, bowled by Anuk Fernando, mostly from handsome drives through extra cover.

In fact, he was perhaps a little too confident, as he miscued an on-drive that he intended to go for six, and mid-on running back just failed to hold a very difficult chance from the skier.

But he soon lost Tinashe Kamunhukamwe, who drove over a yorker from Fernando and was bowled for four, quickly followed by Tarisai Musakanda, who drove the same bowler to mid-off for one.

Loose strokeplay had taken the Zimbabweans to 32 for three in the sixth over, of which total Chari had scored 26 off 15 balls.

The captain, Peter Moor, looked like stabilising the innings and batted well for 17, but was most unhappy to be given out lbw to Fernando from a ball that pitched outside the line of his leg stump, the umpire raising his finger after a long delay and frenetic appeals from the Sri Lankans; 53 for four in the tenth over.

Kudzai Sauramba now settled in with Chari, who seemed to feel his responsibility and slowed down his scoring rate.

Keshan Wijerathne showed some impressive pace, though he tended to bowl too short.

The Sri Lankan over rate was very poor, and there were frequent unnecessary stoppages and midfield discussions, so that only 21 overs were bowled in the first two hours, and the second drinks interval was taken after only 29 overs.

However, the Zimbabwean over rate was to prove no better.

Chari reached a fine fifty off 47 balls, and is in the best form of his career.

Soon after this he lost Sauramba (20), who overbalanced while trying to sweep and was stumped; 101 for five in the 22nd over.

Nathan Waller also proved a fine partner for Chari, batting aggressively, although some of his lofted strokes just evaded the field.

Chari finally departed for a very creditable 85, edging to the keeper when he pushed at a ball outside the off stump from the left-arm spinner Lasith Ambuldeniya.

This was his fourth successive fifty against the tourists; he faced 105 balls, hit eight fours, and the score was 171 for six after 39 overs.

When Waller (44) drove a catch to long-off off Charith Asalanka eight runs later (55 balls and five fours), the Zimbabweans’ tail was exposed and a disappointing total seemed almost inevitable.

However, there followed a superb and unexpected partnership of 73 for the eighth wicket in eight overs between Carl Mumba and Mkhululi Nyathi.

Neither had much of a batting record before today, but they hit powerfully, unafraid to take on the bowlers, mostly from playing straight and driving down the ground.

In the final over Nyathi finally perished to a skier to long-on off Asalanka, having scored 29 off 24 balls.

Mumba was unbeaten on 40 at the close of the innings, hitting three fours and a six off 35 balls faced.

The total was 255 for nine wickets and, after such a poor start, the Zimbabweans felt that on this pitch it was more than competitive.

Fernando, with three wickets for 46, was the most successful bowler, while Asalanka took two for 37.

The lunch break lasted only about 25 minutes due to the tourists’ poor over rate, and they were soon in trouble when they batted.

In the first over Pabasara Waduge (1) drove a catch into the covers, and with only 12 runs on the board Sauramba as wicketkeeper brought off a brilliant diving catch off a skyer well behind the slips to send back Asalanka for two.

Both wickets fell to Victor Nyauchi, while at the other end Waller gave him good support with his tight, accurate seamers.

With the score at 36 Sauramba took another good catch, diving down the leg side to remove Lahiru Milantha for five, the fortunate bowler being Nyathi, who had replaced Nyauchi.

Hashan Dumindu, who opened the innings, was still there, batting soundly, and he was now joined by the aggressive Sandun Weerakkody.

Weerakkody decided to take advantage of Nyathi with some big hitting, but then skied a catch beyond the covers, out for 23 off 18 balls, with the score 63 for four.

It certainly seemed to be Nyathi’s day, as he then had Hashan Dumindu caught at the wicket for 25, making the score 77 for five in the 19th over.

The 100 came up in the 25th over, with Fernando now in to partner Rumesh Buddika.

Mumba, who came on as first change, kept the runs down as the batsmen played him carefully, but he did not appear as dangerous as he had done in previous matches.

For a long while the batsmen were content to play the bowling as it came, building a partnership, but the required run rate slowly increased to more than six an over.

Then the batsmen took hold of Dylan Hondo in the 33rd over and hit him for 13 runs.

In Hondo’s next over Buddika hit him for four and six off successive balls to reach his fifty off 63 balls.

Fernando’s fifty soon followed off 52 balls, and the situation was looking increasingly dangerous for the Zimbabweans.

Then finally came the breakthrough, after a partnership of 110 for the sixth wicket, as Nyauchi finally produced the ball that was necessary to bowl Fernando for 52.

He faced 55 balls and hit five fours and a six, the score now being 187 for six in the 39th over.

After 40 overs, with Sanjaya Chathuranga in, the score was 191 for six, which meant the Sri Lankans still needed 65 to win in 10 overs, with four wickets left.

Tight bowling by Mumba and Waller meant the batsmen had to take risks, and in seeking a second run Buddika was finally run out, by a brilliant throw from Musakanda, for a fine innings of 75 (93 balls, six fours and a six); 211 for seven in the 44th over.

One run later Waller produced a fine delivery to bowl Kasun Madushanka, and the Zimbabweans moved closer to victory.

But this was Waller’s final over, and Chathuranga was determined to win the match off his own bat.

He pulled a full toss from Nyauchi for six, and 28 were needed from the last four overs.

But then Mumba, with his final delivery, produced a quick ball that Chathuranga tried to dab to third man, but only managed to edge to the keeper.

He made 23, the score was 234 for nine, and the last two Sri Lankan batsmen had to score 22 off the final three overs to win in fading light.

Five came off the first of these and only two off the second, bowled by Nyauchi and Nyathi respectively.

This left 15 to be made off the final over from Nyauchi, and in attempting to steal a bye from the first ball, Sauramba threw down the stumps and the match was over, a tense, thrilling match won by the Zimbabwean team by 14 runs.

With the win, Douglas Hondo’s charges sealed the three-match one-day series having won the first meeting on Saturday.

The third and final match is pencilled in for Wednesday at the same venue.

Mini Scorecard:

Zimbabwe Development XI – 255 for 9 in 50 overs (Brian Chari 85, Nathan Waller 44, Carl Mumba 40*; Anuk Fernando 3/46, Charith Asalanka 2/37)

Sri Lanka Development XI – 241 all out in 49.1 overs (Rumesh Buddika 75, Anuk Fernando 52; Victor Nyauchi 3/39, Mkhululi Nyathi 3/43)

Zimbabwe Development XI won by 14 runs