Concurring with Rangana Herath that batting will be tough in the fourth innings, Zimbabwe coach Heath Streak said his side would aim to have Sri Lanka chasing 200 at a minimum. With the hosts still 63 runs behind, Zimbabwe have a rare chance to take a first-innings lead.
“I’d like to get 400 runs in front, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Streak said. “Anything over 200 to 250 runs is going to be really tough on the fourth and fifth days. Between 250 and 280 would be a really competitive target. But first we’ve got to get out the two batsmen at the crease at the moment [Asela Gunaratne and Rangana Herath]. They can both bat.”
Pulling ahead in an away Test has been difficult for Zimbabwe in recent times. Since 2000, over a spell of 28 matches, they have earned a first-innings lead only four times – once in the West Indies and thrice in Bangladesh. Streak was hopeful of adding Colombo to that list.
“It’s going to be a really interesting day’s play tomorrow,” he said. “Hopefully, we can pick up those last few wickets quickly, and if we do get a lead, that will be a bonus. Then it’s going to be an exciting few days.”
Zimbabwe’s strong position has partly been delivered by their captain Graeme Cremer, who took 3 for 100 from 30 overs. He has turned the ball more than any other spinner in the match and produced two outstanding deliveries to dismiss Dinesh Chandimal and Kusal Mendis.
“There are times where we just let things drift a little bit, but all in all I am very happy.” Streak said. “Cremer was outstanding today. He bowled some really dangerous balls and could easily have a five-for already. It’s nice to be in the position we are in, but its only two hard days and there’s lots more in the Test match if we are going to give ourselves a chance to challenge Sri Lanka.”
Zimbabwe have lost 12 Tests and have never won a match against Sri Lanka. The most recent of those defeats came in October and November last year, when Sri Lanka dominated both matches. The series victory in the ODIs, however, has instilled new belief among the tourists.
“We are making history on the tour so we would change that as well,” Streak said. “It’s about backing positive options – something we really encouraged the guys to do on this tour. We know we have to do that again. With Rangana and the other spinners, it’s going to be hard work.”