For a side playing their first Test in 14 months, Zimbabwe’s defiance was encouraging. Ultimately, however, it was fruitless. They batted 148 overs in the first innings, and 92 overs in the second, but where most batsmen’s defence was in order on a docile Harare surface, they were less adept at scoring runs. You could forgive a scoring rate of 2.41 as they made 358 in the first innings. But in the second dig, where run-scoring was a legitimate means of making Sri Lanka work harder for the victory, a rate of 1.84 was less acceptable. *They’ll need to do better, especially since one of their premier bowlers, Kyle Jarvis, injured his lower back during the series opener and is no longer available to play.
Scoring runs while at the crease may become even more vital in the second Test. As this match will also be played at the Harare Sports Club, the groundstaff will have only have had three full days to prepare the surface. And undercooked pitches generally favour bowlers. Occupying the crease for long periods may not be so easy over the next few days.
Their bowlers, meanwhile, might be enthused by the prospect of a more sporting pitch, but will need to show more menace. Debutant seamer Victor Nyauchi was their best bowler of the first game, consistently finding movement with the new and old balls, taking 3 for 69 in his 32 overs. But he might have had more wickets, had more experienced bowlers built more pressure from the other end. As it happened, Sri Lanka’s batsmen largely succeeded in playing Nyauchi out, while steadily collecting runs off the other bowlers.
For Sri Lanka’s attack, the primary challenge may be to recover from the epic shifts they had put in last week. Lahiru Kumara, Sri Lanka’s fastest bowler, delivered 50 overs. Suranga Lakmal bowled 47, and spinner Lasith Embuldeniya 68. With a rejuvenated Angelo Mathews now among the runs, their batting is beginning to look solid for the first time in many months as well.
Zimbabwe LLWLD (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka WLDLW
In the spotlight
That Lahiru Kumara bowled more overs than any other quick is impressive enough, given his pace. But that he saved his best spell of the match for the third session of the fifth day speaks volumes not only of his fitness, but also of his attitude and hunger. When he first arrived at the top level, Kumara had pace and a good inswinger, but also frequently bowled loose deliveries. There is much more discipline about his bowling now, and that has vitally not come at the expense of his pace. Sri Lanka will be desperate for his rhythm to roll on, not just into this Test, but the matches against England, which are coming up in March.
Zimbabwe’s spinners were particularly ineffective in the first Test. Although Sikandar Raza took three wickets, two of those were of tail-enders. Sean Williams claimed two, but the dismissal of Dinesh Chandimal was incredibly fortunate – the ball popping up off Chandimal’s boot – while the other wicket was that of the No. 11. When Zimabwe pushed Sri Lanka in a Test in Colombo in 2017, it was a spinner – Graeme Cremer – who did much of the heavy lifting. The spinners will need to be much more of a threat to Sri Lanka’s top order, if they are to trouble them again.
*Opener Kevin Kasuza has resumed full training after suffering from concussion and a Zimbabwe Cricket press release on Sunday evening said he is expected to play this game. Tinotenda Mutombodzi, the legspinning allrounder, has been added to the squad with Jarvis ruled out though it may be that fellow fast bowler Carl Mumba gets into the XI as a like-for-like replacement. Zimbabwe may also consider replacing left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu – who went wicketless in 28 overs – with legspinning-allrounder Timycen Maruma.
Zimbabwe(possible): 1 Kevin Kasuza/ Brian Mudziganyama, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams (capt.), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Regis Chakabva (wk), 8 Timycen Maruma, 9 Donald Tiripano, 10 Victor Nyauchi, 11 Carl Mumba
If Sri Lanka make a change to their XI, it may be leaving seamer Kasun Rajitha out of the XI, in favour of a spinner – either Dilruwan Perera or Lakshan Sandakan.
Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Oshada Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Suranga Lakmal, 9 Lasith Embuldeniya, 10 Lakshan Sandakan, 11 Lahiru Kumara
Pitch and conditions
This pitch is likely to be more bowler-friendly than the placid strip seen for the first Test. The weather is expected to be largely fine for the duration of the Test.
Stats and trivia
Brendan Taylor needs 101 runs to complete 2000 in Tests. If he does it in this match, he will become the sixth Zimbabwe batsman to the milestone.
Zimbabwe have not won a Test at home since 2013, when they defeated Pakistan in Harare.
Angelo Mathews needs 92 more runs to become the fifth Sri Lankan to 6000 Test runs, behind Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Aravinda de Silva and Sanath Jayasuriya.
1720 GMT This preview was updated with the news of Kyle Jarvis’ injury and Kevin Kasuza’s recovery