With Zimbabwe having come so close to winning their first Test against Sri Lanka, and fallen short, there was disappointment for captain Graeme Cremer. Disappointment about missing a vital stumping chance and two catches on day five. Disappointment that a third-umpire’s decision Zimbabwe felt was straightforward, went against them. And even some disappointment that their next international assignment is as far away as October, so there is nowhere really to put all this confidence they have built up on this tour.
But trumping all of that, he said, was pride.
“We thought 388 was going to be tough – especially on the last day. We had picked up three wickets yesterday so we only needed to pick up seven today. It has been a sort of a rollercoaster of emotions. But I am still proud of the way the guys played and the way they fought. I’m very proud of the way the guys played to win an ODI series here. Then push them in the Test match and almost beat them, and into the fifth afternoon – it’s a good effort from our boys.”
A “rollercoaster” partly because Zimbabwe had been in control of the match, when Cremer dismissed the overnight pair in the first hour, leaving Sri Lanka five down with 185 runs still to get. They should have been six down with 151 to get, had third umpire C Shamshuddin ruled Niroshan Dickwella out when he was stumped on 37. It was a close decision: no part of the popping crease was visible behind Dickwella’s boot at the moment the bails came off. However, it was unlikely that any part of the boot was behind the crease either, which should result in an “out” decision.
“From what I saw, I honestly didn’t see any doubt as to why he shouldn’t be out,” Cremer said. “It’s just one of those things. If you’ve got technology, it clearly shows it. It happens to us quite a lot as well, we feel. It’s tough when those things go against you, especially when you are trying to win a Test match on a last day.”
Zimbabwe’s strength right through the tour has been their batting. They became the first team to successfully chase a score of over 300 in Sri Lanka, in the first ODI, and breached 350 in both innings in this match. The score of 377 in the second innings was particularly impressive, as Zimbabwe had been 59 for 5 at one stage.
“It’s usually with the bat that we struggle a bit, but having lost early wickets in the first and second innings, it shows that guys’ skill levels have improved, to be able pull it back the way we did, and get over 350 in both innings,” Cremer said. “We’ve still got a lot of work to do – a bit more with the ball. And when we get into a position like we were in the first innings, we could have probably got 400. It’s a learning curve for us because we don’t get to play a lot of Test cricket. The way the guys fought was excellent.”
While Sri Lanka will immediately begin preparing for a long home series against India, Zimbabwe lay dormant across all formats through the months of August and September. Cremer hoped the team’s performance on this tour would help Zimbabwe Cricket leverage other cricket boards, in securing a fuller schedule.
“Even before this Test match our Managing Director said he wanted to push for more Test cricket and more cricket in general. We have shown that we can push big teams even away from home. We have West Indies coming to us for two tests in October, and we’re confident of pushing them because we’re playing in Zimbabwe.
“Ireland and Afghanistan are also competitive teams, so now that they have Test status, I’m hoping we get more cricket.”