Zimbabwe chevrons made history on Monday, 10 July, after dispatching Sri Lanka by three wickets in a One Day International (ODI) series match to clinch a 3-2 victory over the Islanders.
It was the Chevron’s first series win against a test playing nation since 2009 when they beat Bangladesh, and Captain Graeme Cremer describe the win as special as they were under pressure to deliver.
“This win is very special; fans must be jumping around back home. We knew we’re playing good enough cricket to put them under pressure.
“I don’t know how to put it. I was pressure, but we needed just one small partnership to get over the line. Happy that Sikandar came to the party. It turned around very quickly but happy we pulled it off in the end. We knew they were expecting seam on both ends.
“Raza is a definite weapon with the new ball. I was hoping for a breakthrough or two and he gave us that in the Power play. I usually always call heads, decided to change today and it worked out well,” said the skipper showering praises for Raza who was eventually named man of the match.
Zimbabwe went to Sri Lanka ranked 11th, having lost to Scotland and Afghanstan in their previous test matches, but bowling with venom, fielding with pep, and batting with intelligence, helped Zimbabwe win the deciding fifth ODI.
Though their quartet of miserly spinners had trussed Sri Lanka up for 203 in their 50 overs, and though their openers slammed 92 for the first wicket, victory still had to be prised from their opposition on a slowing, turning deck.
Zimbabwe were 137 for 1, when a Sri Lanka surge, led by Akila Dananjaya, claimed six wickets for 38.
But as long as Sikandar Raza was at the crease, Zimbabwe’s chances of victory remained good. He survived the last of Dananjaya’s overs, and alongside Graeme Cremer, saw out a burst of swinging Lasith Malinga Yorkers.
Hamilton Masakadza capped an outstanding series with an 86-ball 73, Solomon Mire and Tarisai Musakanda made useful batting contributions, and the other spinners – Cremer, Malcolm Waller and Sean Williams – all made important breakthroughs as well.
Said Masakadza after the emphatic win “I was a little bit of pressure coming in the series. The selectors backed me and gave me another shot. I’ve worked on a lot of plans with the batting coach and it’s paid off. We wanted to have a look first up,”
Each of Zimbabwe’s openers survived close calls early: a Lasith Malinga slower ball missing Hamilton Masakadza’s off stump by centimetres, before Solomon Mire successfully overturned an lbw decision against him off Nuwan Kulasekara. But if there were early nerves, they would soon be clobbered into submission.
Mire biffed three fours and a six off the fourth over – bowled by Kulasekara – and once Zimbabwe were off, it was more or less a Power play boundary binge. The batsmen would hit one six apiece, and nine fours in total by the end of the 10th over, many of those hits coming down the ground. At that stage, Zimbabwe had knocked 62 off the total. Though Mire would soon lose his stumps, trying to paddle sweep Gunaratne, a further 40 would come off the next six overs, and Zimbabwe would be halfway to the winning score.
Malinga’s dismissal of Masakadza in the 24th over seemed a mere bump at the time, with so much batting to come, but bowling to left-handers now, flight, dip and rip returned to Dananjaya’s game, and he threatened to derail the chase.
He first had Craig Ervine lbw, had Williams caught at short midwicket soon after, had Musakanda holing out to long on, and in his final over, had Peter Moor caught at leg gully. Malinga supported him with a tight spell and the wicket of Waller at the other end, but Zimbabwe could almost taste victory by now.
Raza and Cremer tiptoed onwards through the last of these bowlers’ spells, and saw the team through to a famous victory.
Action shifts to the one Test match starting on July 14 that will be played at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and the visitors will be buoyed by today’s performance.