Seeing out Graeme Cremer and staying positive will reverse a little pressure and bring a mammoth 388 target within reach, according to Dimuth Karunaratne. The opener made 49 to help set the tone for the innings.
Zimbabwe claimed his wicket and two others with balls that took substantial turn. The delivery that dismissed Karunaratne spun more than any other in the match, hitting the fast bowlers’ footmarks and darting alarmingly into his offstump. Kusal Mendis, who had also been positive at the crease, and Angelo Mathews, are the overnight pair.
“I do think we can make it,” Karunaratne said. “We have already scored 170 for three wickets and we need only 218 more. We’ve also batted out the period when he ball is hard and does a little bit more. All Zimbabwe have now is the support from that rough.
“Angie and Kusal are set now. If those two guys keep on batting for an hour or more tomorrow morning, they can get set again. If that happens, I don’t think it’s easy to get them out unless we do something silly.”
Mendis, whose 60 has come off 85 deliveries, was busy at the crease, and used his powerful flat sweep shot to good effect. Mathews has already used the reverse-sweep himself, during his 33-ball 17. Both those options may be key to manipulating the field.
“They’re bowling on the leg side with more fielders. So we need to have a plan to change that field may be playing a reverse sweep,” he said. “If we do that, we will be able to put some runs on the board quickly.
“If we just to survive, we’re losing the opportunity to win the match. We need to be positive. When another 60 to 70 runs are scored, I think they will spread out the field. Then we can get the single and have a chance. We have to put them under pressure.”
Cremer, who had claimed a five-wicket haul in the first innings, appears the key figure in the opposition attack. He has already bowled 58.3 overs in the match, however, and Sri Lanka may have hopes of tiring him out, as they had once done with Yasir Shah, in Pallekele. Sean Williams was the other wicket-taker on Monday.
“Cremer is bowling in good areas and turning it well. As a wrist spinner, he gets a lot out of the surface. What Sean doing is that he pegs the batsman down and forces him to commit a mistake against Cremer. Other than those two, I don’t think there will be a huge threat. The reality is that those two cannot keep bowling right throughout the day.”