This is Zimbabwe's first series win in Sri Lanka © AFP
This is Zimbabwe’s first series win in Sri Lanka © AFP

Zimbabwe’s fairy-tale run in the ODI series against Sri Lanka came to a fruitful end, as they won the deciding final contest at Hambantota on Monday. Zimbabwe bowled spectacularly to restrict the in-form Sri Lanka batsmen at 203 for 8 and later went on to chase the target with 71 deliveries still at hand. This is the first time Zimbabwe won a series against Sri Lanka as well as their first away series win in 8 years, since the one in Kenya, which makes it a special one for the side. Full cricket scorecard: Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe, 5th ODI

Zimbabwe’s decision to bowl first went in their favour. Niroshan Dickwella, who had hit consecutive hundreds, was sent back for 3 runs by Tendai Chatara, getting the first breakthrough in the second over itself. The hosts went on losing wickets, as both Kusal Mendis and Upul Tharanga followed Dickwella soon for single-digit scores. However, Danushka Gunathilaka continued his brilliant run.

With wickets falling all around, Gunathilaka opted for skilled defense, staying at the crease for longer and getting to his half-century. He found some initial support from skipper Angelo Mathews, who scored 24 runs. Gunathilaka, however, was finally sent back by Sean William.

Asela Gunaratne played a commendable knock, scoring an unbeaten 59 to take his side from 126 for 7 to 203 for 8. Just like the tumbling top-order, the lower-order too failed to stick around for longer and it was Gunaratne who stood against the odds and played a crucial knock for his side to put up some runs to defend.

Sikandar Raza engineered the fall of Sri Lanka top-order, bagging 3 wickets for 21. Skipper Graeme Cremer, too, was effective with the ball taking a couple of wickets.

Zimbabwe started the chase well. The openers provided the side with a 92-run opening stand. Gunaratne gave Sri Lanka their first breakthrough, dismissing Solomon Mire for 43. The other opener, an experienced Masakadza, was the highest run-getter for the side, scoring a half-century and converting it to 73 in 86 balls. At the other end, he found Tarisai Musakanda (37). However, after Musakanda’s fall, Zimbabwe lost a few more wickets in quick succession.

Akila Dananjaya ran through the Zimbabwe middle-order, not letting most of the batsmen go past single-digit scores. However, the target was not a big one. The majority of the work was done by the top three and for the rest, two calm-headed players were needed to rotate strike and take singles. Raza, along with Cremer, did exactly what was demanded. His run-a-ball 27 and Cremer’s 11 off 13 contributed massively, as they won the match with 3 wickets remaining.

For Sri Lanka, Akila Dananjaya was the most successful with 3 wickets while veteran Lasith Malinga bagged two. The total, however, was not enough for the bowlers to defend.

Raza was rightly named the Played of the Match for his all-round performance of 3 wickets and a composed knock of 27 runs that saw Zimbabwe home. Hamilton Maskadza was adjudged the Player of the Series award for piling up 258 runs.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 203 for 8 in 50 overs (Danushka Gunathilaka 52, Asela Gunaratne 59*; Sikandar Raza 3 for 21, Graeme Cremer 2 for 23) lost to Zimbabwe 204 for 7 in 38.1 overs (Hamilton Masakadza 73, Solomon Mire 43, Tarisai Musakanda 37, Sikandar Raza 27*; Lasith Malinga 2 for 44, Akila Dananjaya 4 for 47) by 3 wickets.