By Srian Obeyesekere
Bordering on a major final, the third and final T20 international between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe tonight indeed gathers a pre match hype of a gripping build up bordering on the must win beckoning to both camps with the series level at 1-all when they lock horns at the R. Premadasa International Stadium intensified by the absorbing heat of a cricket crazy home crowd in the country’s Colombo city cricket hub.
That Sikandar Raza’s Zimbabweans have gamely galvanised the series from an empty sheet of having lost the opener to shifting the onus on Wanindu Hasaranga’s charges by that dramatic triumph of the second game has indeed thrown the heat to a reality blockbuster going into the decider. In that dictate, full marks to shifting the onus on their rivals by a Zimbabwean side that by and large came in as the underdogs against a Sri Lankan side of experience and youthful exuberance of a nation having the edge on the record of having won at all three previous meetings.
In that must win scenario to both camps, that Sri Lanka has been pushed on the back step by resurgent Zimbabwe certainly sees new captain Wanindu Hasaranga for the first time in his career wearing the captaincy big mantle in a reality pressure situation of having to pull up his socks in calling the shots in meeting that decisive challenge of defeating Zimbabwe to retaining an unscathed record. For an attacking all-rounder which by and large influenced his induction to the T20 captaincy Hasaranga thus finds himself seeking a workable strategy to down the dangerous Zimbabweans who have praiseworthily pierced the Sri Lankans achilleas heel. That cannot be truer in that the Zimbabwe batsmen rode unfazed through the terrors of Hasaranga’s reputed magic spin where his deadly wicket-taking googlie that bulldozed them in the decisive third ODI with the Lankan captain went for 41 runs in his 4 overs with just the one wicket.
Moreover, the Lankan captain will be musing his decision to have bowled Angelo Mathews in the decisive last over which Zimbabwe’s Luke Jongwe and Clive Madande smashed around to reaching the 20 needed for victory which from a Sri Lankan standpoint was a big clout over their opponents that should have been defended. It leaves a pondering in the Lankan camp as to why the Lankan skipper himself or speedster Dushmantha Chameera should have been balanced for the death over.
The Lankan camp would also do well to mulling the repeated poor top order batting performances that has been a let down as much as the fielding to getting their acts right in this must win game in the face of a highly brimming Zimbabwean outfit.
From a Zimbabwean view point, indeed, the center piece playmaker to victory has been by and large the experienced Craig Ervine whose workmanlike half century was the impetus to that final charge.