Mendis, Mathews hit fifties as Sri Lanka chip away at lead

Sri Lanka 42 for 1 (Oshada 21, Karunaratne 12*, Tiripano 1-5) trail Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Kasuza 63, Masvaure 55, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 316 runs

Lasith Embuldeniya completed a second five-wicket haul in Test cricket, and Sri Lanka’s attack finally made headway, but Zimbabwe still ended day two in a position of strength in Harare, thanks in part to a late Sri Lankan wicket.

Nine batsmen fell on Monday in total, in comparison to the two on the stolid first day. The pitch was beginning to show hints of deterioration and life. Where there had been virtually no spin on Sunday, there was at least modest grip today for Embuldeniya to exploit. After Zimbabwe had been bowled out for 358 early in the second session, Donald Tiripano then delivered the ball of the match so far, getting a length ball to jag dramatically back at opener Oshada Fernando, to breach his defences and send middle stump cartwheeling. It seems likely that ball had struck a widening crack.

Still 316 runs ahead, and with Sri Lanka one down now, Zimbabwe can still dream of a healthy first-innings lead overnight. Tiripano was chief among those pushing their cause forward on day two, first hitting 44 not out from No. 8, and joining debutant Victor Nyauchi to put up a 30-run last-wicket stand to further defy a Sri Lanka side that had been made to field for 139 overs (it would be 148 by the time the innings was done). His dismissal of Fernando, which he produced in his first over of the match, then buoyed Zimbabwe just before stumps, and will have worried the Sri Lanka batsmen looking on. Sikandar Raza also made a confident 41 through the course of the afternoon, and was the only Zimbabwe batsman to strike at better than 50.

It was Embuldeniya, though, who did most to bring what was a sleepy Test to life on Monday. In the morning session, he artfully lured Sean Williams to push at a floated, wide delivery, and took his outside edge, which was snaffled by the wicketkeeper. He then took three wickets in the afternoon session to complete his haul (he had also dismissed Prince Masvaure on day one), first having Regis Chakabva caught by a tumbling Angelo Mathews at mid-on, then spinning one past the advancing Raza, before turning a ball between the bat and pad of Kyle Jarvis to clatter off stump. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given he is the lead spinner, Embuldeniya bowled 42 overs in the innings, which comprised more than 28% of the overs delivered by Sri Lanka. His five wickets cost 114 runs.

Before Embuldeniya warmed to his work, however, it had been seamer Suranga Lakmal who put most pressure on Zimbabwe. Bowling with a still new-ish second new ball early in the day, he troubled left-hander Craig Ervine by coming around the wicket, and then dismissed Brendan Taylor for 21 with a ball that nipped back into the batsman’s front pad. Ervine, who had started the day on 55, would survive Lakmal’s first spell, but not the second, dragging a back-of-a-length delivery back on to his stumps to be dismissed on 85 – the highest score on the Zimbabwe card. Later, Lakmal would also shut down Zimbabwe’s pesky last-wicket stand, and would finish with figures of 3 for 53.

Sri Lanka captain Dimuth Karunaratne played out 30 balls in mostly uneventful fashion before stumps, and had Kusal Mendis for company. Bad light was called soon after 5pm.