Solomon Mire's maiden ODI hundred set up Zimbabwe's first win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka    AFP
Solomon Mire’s maiden ODI hundred set up Zimbabwe’s first win against Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka AFP

When Sikandar Raza slammed Amila Aponso over long-on for a six, Zimbabwe not only registered their eighth ODI win over Sri Lanka but also broke a plethora of records. They had never beaten Sri Lanka in their den. Requiring 317 to win, no one expected Zimbabwe to beat the odds and pull off something so spectacular. Riding on Solomon Mire’s maiden international century, Zimbabwe registered the first successful chase over 300 in Sri Lanka at Galle International Stadium that hosted an ODI after 17 years. FULL SCORECARD: Sri Lanka vs Zimbabwe, 1st ODI

Zimbabwe suffered an early blow when they lost Hamilton Masakadza for 5, in the third over, to Lasith Malinga. Craig Ervine then departed in the 11th over, but the 27-year-old Mire, playing in his 18th ODI, refused to budge the usual way. He counterattacked and was aided by dropped chances as he stroked away to a 96-ball 112. Mire and Sean Williams added 161 from 133 balls to set it up for Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe suffered a scare when they lost Mire and Williams in the 33rd and 35th over respectively to Asela Gunaratne’s medium pace. However, Raza and Malcolm Waller ensured there was no drama as they continued counterattacking. The duo added 102 for the fifth wicket off 80 balls, and were particularly harsh on slow left-arm spinner Aponso, who eventually leaked 77 from his 8.4 overs. Zimbabwe cruised to the target in the 48th over.

The win marks one of the finest moments in Zimbabwe cricket. In 2001, in the same country, Zimbabwe were shot out for 38 by Sri Lanka at SSC. It was then the lowest ODI total. With this win, the No. 11-ranked ODI side has taken a 1-0 lead over the hosts in the 5-match series.

Mendis and Guna’s class-apart show

Electing to bat, Sri Lanka were off to a strong start. Kusal Mendis and Danushka Gunathilaka. Do the names ring a bell? Earlier this month, these 2 young men weaved a brilliant century stand to enable that Sri Lanka upset India in a group match of ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Mendis and Gunathilaka got in to the act again, and this time added a brisk 117-run partnership that provided Sri Lanka the platform to reach 316 for 5 in their 50 overs.

Sri Lanka lost Niroshan Dickwella in the fifth over after the southpaw failed to clear cover off Tendai Chatara’s bowling. Gunathilaka and Mendis took charge thereon. While Mendis attacked with an array of attractive strokes, Gunathilaka played the waiting game. Mendis, in process, also completed 1,000 runs in ODIs.

Sean Williams broke the partnership when Gunathilaka went for a reverse sweep and found Craig Ervine at backward point. He departed for a 77-ball 60, but Mendis (86 off 80 balls) carried on and found a smart partner in the experienced Upul Tharanga, who belted a 79 not out from 73 balls.

Skipper Angelo Mathews’ 30-ball 43 boosted the scoring rate as Sri Lanka reached beyond 300. The total did not prove enough as Zimbabwe scripted a record chase. The sides will square against each other on Sunday for the second ODI at the same venue.

Brief scores:

Sri Lanka 316 for 6 in 50 overs (Danushka Gunathilaka 60, Kusal Mendis 86, Upul Tharanga 79*, Angelo Mathews 43; Tendai Chatara 2 for 49) lost to Zimbabwe 322 for 4 in 47.4 overs (Solomon Mire 112, Sean Williams 65, Sikandar Raza 67*, Malcolm Waller 40*; Asela Gunaratne 2 for 45) by 6 wickets

Man of the Match: Solomon Mire