An unbeaten 109-run stand for the third wicket between batsman Craig Ervine and Brian Chari served the day for Zimbabwe as they fought back from near dismal collapse to end the day stronger.
Zimbabwe began the day needing to bowl out Sri Lanka who had an overnight score of 290/5 but their bowlers failed to penetrate through the Lions, with contributions from the lower order, none more significant than Gunaratne’s 116, steering the visitors to a formidable 500-plus first-innings score.
In reply the hosts were reduced to 17 for 2 inside the first 10 overs after Hamilton Masakadza (0) and Tino Mawoyo (3) were bowled out in quick succession by Sri Lanka skipper Rangana Herath leaving Zimbabwe in a precarious position.
It could have been 26 for 3, had Chari not made successful use of the Decision Review System, on trial for the first time in Zimbabwe.
Having been given out leg before wicket playing forward to an arm-ball that struck him in front of off stump, Chari survived as replays pointed to a faint inside edge, and Ian Gould’s on-field decision was overturned. Zimbabwe had also benefitted from the prudent use of DRS when Chari survived a review in the third over after being given out by umpire Simon Fry. This time, replays showed the ball would have missed the stumps.
Ervine, meanwhile, adopted a more conventional approach, getting outside the line of the stumps and sweeping Herath with the spin, one such fierce hit behind square bringing up his half-century. By stumps, the two had steered Zimbabwe to 179 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
“The plan was to hit the right shot and play the bad ball while rotating the strike to keep the scoreboard ticking. We are not much concerned with the score at the moment but we just want to play our normal game avoid falling further away from the score we are chasing. So hopefully tomorrow we will put more runs and be in a comfortable position,” said Ervine.
Zimbabwe’s first task will be to avoid follow on by scoring the required 179 runs and hope to surpass the 504 set by Sri Lanka.