There is growing excitement in the Zimbabwe camp about a strong match position, which could turn into a historic win. Zimbabwe have lost 12, and never won a Test against Sri Lanka. Although the pitch is not quite as spin-friendly as was expected, a lead of 262, with four wickets in hand, translates to an excellent position.
Malcolm Waller, who was involved in the unbeaten 107-run stand that helped transform Zimbabwe’s situation, said the confidence bred by the ODI series victory has bled into the Tests as well. “The guys are extremely positive after the one-day series,” Waller said. “It was great and it helped all of us mentally. We thought we’ve got a great chance here. If we can go out there tomorrow and put on another 100 runs, you never know what’s going to happen. It will give us a really good fighting chance.”
Zimbabwe had earlier been 59 for 5, before Sikandar Raza struck up two long associations, first with PJ Moor, then with Waller. “It was a really shaky start and it put us under lot of pressure in the changing room,” he said. “But the batters, we sat down and talked about going out and fighting, and showing that you mean business.
“It was a great partnership between Raza and PJ Moor. I think that stabilised the things and brought back the positivity. At the end of the day, we can be happy with what we have.”
While Sri Lanka’s interim coach Nic Pothas believed the pitch had become easier for batting, Waller said conditions were testing, despite having maintained a strike rate in the 90s for parts of his innings. While there was turn on the pitch, only occasional deliveries leapt out, he observed.
“I wouldn’t say that is really easy for batting. We saw the odd one did turn. You’re always going to get the odd one that turn and jump. I think we were concentrating on every ball and it’s never easy out there. Especially in the second innings in Sri Lanka, the pressure is always on. Graeme Cremer, being a wristspinner – there is more turn for him than the finger spinners.”
Zimbabwe’s performances on this tour have been something of a surprise, not least because they had had a modest 2017 themselves. Earlier in the year, they had lost a five-match ODI series to Afghanistan, and more recently had been defeated by Scotland in an ODI. Having come to Sri Lanka immediately after tours to Scotland and the Netherlands, Zimbabwe have hit their stride as an outfit, Waller said.
“We came a long way to here and we’ve had a good couple of weeks on tour now. I think we’re starting to gel really well now. Guys are getting good ideas, and it’s definitely a lot more positive in the camp. We’ve got good fighting spirits and everyone is getting on well. Everyone is helping each other and pushing on.”