Cricket is literally about the valiant in a sport known to produce superstars As Kusal Mendis proved on Friday when he struck a timely unbeaten 116, his seventh Test century in battling Sri Lanka to an honourable draw of the
second and final test match against Zimbabwe on Friday at the at the Harare Sports Club grounds on Wednesday.
Indeed, it was a fifth and final day back to the wall scenario of Sri Lanka staring down the barrel of 360 runs for victory where a few false strokes would have given Zimbabwe the much needed series securing win. Batting out of imminent trouble of a pressure cooker situation was the clarion call that 24-year old one drop batsman
Mendis answered in ensuring a series securing Sri Lankan draw.
That he rose to the occasion from a not so secure dented fighting form position of a star
whose career started with a bang but had lost the plot in the past three years was of a mission accomplished with his bat when the going got tough; accomplished with some fire romping to his century lofting Sikandar Raza for six in his 233-ball knock consuming 291 minutes laced with 13 boundaries and a six.
After Zimbabwe had declared their second innings at 247 for 7 having added 6 runs to their overnight total, Sri Lanka’s early loss of skipper Dimuth Karunaratne, their most consistent run maker for 12 caught by Chakabva off Mumba with the score 26 was an unsettling start that put the pressure on the rest of the Lankan batters as the host team had their tails up. It was such testing times that Mendis rode down well backed by Oshada Fernando who struck a game 47 off 108 balls spiced with 4 hits to the ropes as the second wicket pair added 81 runs when Fernando exited, an LBW victim to Sikandar Raza with the total on 107. Their most experienced campaigner Angelo Mathews did absorb the overs negotiating 23.1 of them as Sri Lanka reached 140 when he was dismissed for 13 off Nyauchi to a catch to Ervine. But Mathews had to
an extent played his part where occupation of the crease was the need of the hour in playing for a draw to secure the series.
From that point Mendis found an able ally in a stonewalling Dinesh Chandimal on 13 off 75 balls and 102 minutes in consuming a further 25.4 overs when the game ended by mutual
consent 15 minutes from the scheduled close. Mendis was 5 runs short of 3000 test runs that would have to wait for another day.
In the final sum up, the Sri Lankans had outshone an opposition bowling attack that lacked the firepowerto finish it off. Sikandar Raza was adjudged Player of the Match.
Zimbabwe 406 and 247 for 7 decl.
(Taylor 67, Wiliams 53 n.o.,Fernando 2/43, Embuldeniya 2/81)
Sri Lanka 293 (Mathews 64, Raza 7/113) And 204/3 (87 Overs)
(B.K.G. Mendis n.o. 116, B.O.P. Fernando 47, L.D. Chandimal n.o. 13)
By Srian Obeyesekere