|Scorecard:||Zimbabwe v Sri Lanka|
Overnight: Sri Lanka 456/7 off 106 overs (Vaas 28*, Maharoof 16*)
Lunch: Sri Lanka 541; Zimbabwe 15/2 (Taylor 2*)
Result: Match over; Sri Lanka won by an innings and 240 runs
Sri Lanka wrapped up an easy innings victory over the Zimbabwe team by an innings and 240 runs before tea on the third day. The match will most be remembered, though, for the landmark of the unique Sri Lankan bowler, Muttiah Muralitharan, who took his 520th wicket in Test cricket to exceed the record of Courtney Walsh.
Sri Lanka lost a wicket in the second over of the day, as Chaminda Vaas, declining to play himself in, chose the wrong ball to hook from Blessing Mahwire and skyed a catch that was well taken by Stuart Matsikenyeri running back from midwicket. He did not add to his overnight 28, and Sri Lanka were 457 for eight.
Farveez Maharoof showed more wisdom than his more experienced overnight partner, playing straight and finding two loose deliveries in Douglas Hondo’ s second over to crack to the off-side boundary. He shared an enterprising partnership with Nuwan Zoysa before Mahwire brought a ball back off the pitch to trap him lbw on the back foot for 40; 496 for nine.
Muttiah Muralitharan as usual came out looking for a hit, getting away with an extravagant skyed hook off Mluleki Nkala that took the total past 500, and another lofty leg swing off Mahwire. Zoysa joined the party with some more orthodox hits, while Muralitharan hit Prosper Utseya over mid-off for six, the ball going into The Keg and Maiden, the English-style pub on the ground, hitting a cabinet and shattering the glass.
The pair gaily added 45 in 41 minutes before the impressive Tinashe Panyangara finally deceived Muralitharan with a slower ball, which he tried to hit over the midwicket boundary, only to hole out about 20 yards short. He made 26, Zoysa was unbeaten with 28, and the total 541, a lead of 342. Panyangara was the most impressive bowler, with three for 101, while Mahwire took three for 97.
Zimbabwe made a positive start as they went in 342 runs behind, Stuart Matsikenyeri playing a handsome cover drive to the boundary in Vaas’s first over. However an uppish off drive just evaded the fielder and he just got enough bat on a yorker from Zoysa to avoid being bowled. Sure enough, he misjudged a shorter ball from the same bowler and was caught low in the slips off the glove by Mahela Jayawardene for 11; 13 for one.
With Muralitharan requiring one wicket to set a new world record, Marvan Atapattu put him on to bowl the fifth over of the innings, five minutes before lunch. With three close fielders and an atmosphere of tension, on the field if not among the 200 or so spectators, he bowled to Dion Ebrahim, all of them bellowing at umpire Billy Bowden if anything happened apart from the ball hitting the middle of the bat, but the batsmen survived the over, Ebrahim taking a single off the fourth ball.
Perhaps unsettled by the tension, Ebrahim essayed a hook at Zoysa in the next over, the last before lunch, but skyed the ball behind the stumps where the wicketkeeper Prasanna Jayawardene took a simple catch. He made 2, and Zimbabwe were 15 for two at lunch.
Vaas took over from Murali after lunch, and quickly struck with a lifting ball that struck opener Brendan Taylor (4) on the glove and went out on the leg side. Muralitharan, fielding at backward short leg, dived forward to take a fine catch and reduce Zimbabwe to 17 for three.
Without further addition Tatenda Taibu, trapped on the crease, was beaten and dismissed lbw by Zoysa without scoring. A leg-bye was added, then Elton Chigumbura (0) tried to duck a short ball from Zoysa, left his glove in the way and was well caught by the diving keeper; 18 for five.
Then Muralitharan came on again, Atapattu no doubt afraid that the wickets would run out before he had a chance to join the feast. Mluleki Nkala nearly presented Sri Lanka with another wicket as he almost ran himself out as tension rose in the middle. Alester Maregwede came close to giving him his record immediately, as he swept without reading the spin, but the lobbed hit fell short of long leg.
Nkala had come out fighting, selecting his shots competently, and pulled Zoysa for a superb four to midwicket. Maregwede, after a very uncertain start, finally found his confidence and the pair began to bat well together, even handling Murali with confidence – although often their attacking shots were gambles against the spin and two deep leg-side fielders. At the other end Vaas beat the bat frequently as he moved the ball away from the right-hander, but had no joy.
Finally, inevitable, it came. Nkala (24) pushed forward, the ball found the pad, rebounded on to the bat and out to silly mid-off, where Mahela Jayawardene dived low to take the vital catch. Although few in the crowd seemed to appreciate the true significance of it all, the fielders erupted in delight and the unwilling history-making batsman trudged out with his team at 64 for six.
More soon followed. Prosper Utseya was out first ball, moving too far across his stumps and being bowled behind his legs by Maharoof, bowling his first over. Then Maregwede (22), trying to keep the bowler from dominance, moved down the pitch to drive, and Murali picked up a sharp return catch. However, as he did so he split his finger and had to go off for treatment, thus delaying his chance of recording a hat-trick. But he had done what the world was waiting for, and Zimbabwe were almost down at 64 for eight.
Next out was Mahwire (2), a short ball from Zoysa taking the shoulder of his bat and giving Mahela Jayawardene another catch, at second slip; 72 for nine. But once again the last pair of Hondo and Panyangara set out to enjoy themselves with success. When Murali returned, his first ball was short and wide, and Panyangara lashed it past point for four. Four balls later he swung the ball over long-on for six to take Zimbabwe through to three figures, a feat that had never before looked likely.
Finally and inevitably it came to an end, Panyangara trying to mete out the same treatment to Sanath Jayasuriya and holing out near long-on. It was Mahela Jayawardene’s sixth catch of the match. Zimbabwe’s total was 102, and their defeat by an innings and 240 runs their heaviest ever, beating the loss by an innings and 219 runs to South Africa in 1999/2000.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 John Ward)