Sri Lanka lead the series 2-1 going into the fourth match. © AFP

Sri Lanka lead the series 2-1 going into the fourth match. © AFP

For those who thought that the series would be a walk in the park for Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe have proved in the three games so far that that wouldn’t be the case. Zimbabwe won the first of five One-Day Internationals before losing the next two, and have done well enough to hope to pull level in the fourth game in Hambantota on Saturday (July 8).

Despite Hamilton Masakadza scoring an excellent fifth ODI century (111 off 98 balls) and some late blows from Sikandar Raza (25 in 17 balls) and Peter Moor (24 in 11) taking them to a formidable 310 for 8, Zimbabwe went down by eight wickets in the third ODI. That was because Niroshan Dickwella (102 in 116) and Danushka Gunathilaka (116 in 111) made sure Sri Lanka kept up the momentum after having won the second ODI quite easily.

“Quite disappointed that we scored 310 and couldn’t defend in the last game. On the bowling side we need to bowl better and come up with a better show. Reading the conditions is crucial.” – Graeme Cremer

In that game, also played in Hambantota after the first two games in Galle, Sri Lanka began steadily in their pursuit of a big target, and their chase only got better with the strip offering little for the pacers. Zimbabwe’s spin stocks, too, did not pose a threat as Dickwella dabbed and swept while Gunathilaka unleashed a sequence of classy pulls. The two added 229 runs in their opening-wicket stand and their dismissals in the 37th and 38th overs were no worry as Upul Tharanga continued his fine run with an unbeaten 44.

Zimbabwe would be wary of the conditions that have offered little to the bowlers and must look to Tendai Chatara, the nippy medium pacer who has quickly adapted to the conditions with his disciplined lines and was among the wickets in the first and second games.

Sri Lanka, meanwhile, wouldn’t want to change anything and keep things simple. Their top four – Kusal Mendis, along with Dickwella, Gunathilaka and Tharanga – have been among the runs, while their bowling, too, seems to be in a good place even though Lasith Malinga has largely been disappointing.

But both sides would want to step up their fielding a notch. While fielding has been Sri Lanka’s big worry for quite a while now, Zimbabwe, too, were guilty of slackening in the third ODI, grassing four catches including that of Dickwella when he was on 64.

If the conditions are similar to those on Thursday, a high-scoring contest is on the cards. Late afternoon showers have been predicted, though, and Graeme Cremer and his men would be hoping that the rain stays away as they need a win more than the home side, and a full game will give them a better chance of achieving that.

Teams (from)
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt), Upul Tharanga, Niroshan Dikwella (wk), Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis, Asela Gunaratne, Wanidu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Akila Dananjaya, Nuwan Pradeep Fernando, Lasith Malinga, Dushmantha Chameera, Lahiru Madushanka.
Zimbabwe: Graeme Cremer (capt), Solomon Mire, Hamilton Masakadza, Craig Ervine, Sean Williams, Ryan Burl, Peter Moor (wk), Sikandar Raza Butt, Tendai Chatara, Christ Mpofu, Donald Tiripano, Richard Ngarava, Wellington Masakadza, Malcolm Waller, Chamu Chibhabha, Tarisai Musakanda.