Zim in historic win over Sri Lanka

HARARE - The Zimbabwe cricket team made history by clinching their first ODI series 3-2 away to Sri Lanka after yesterday’s tense three-wicket triumph in the final match in Hambantota.

This was Zimbabwe’s first series win against a Full Member since 2001 when they beat New Zealand.

Zimbabwe’s achievement can also be put into context by the fact that the team lost to Associate side Scotland last month. 

With the series delicately poised at 2-2 and the final match yesterday swinging from end to end, it was batsman Sikandar Raza, who kept his cool to ensure Zimbabwe surpassed Sri Lanka’s total of 203-7 after 50 overs.

The visitors’ chase had begun on a positive note with top order batsmen Solomon Mire (43) and Hamilton Masakadza (73) combining for an opening stand worth 92 runs.

However, Sri Lanka clawed their way back into the match courtesy of spinner Akila Dananjaya as Zimbabwe started to lose wickets at regular intervals.

At one stage the visitors were 137-1 but went on to lose six wickets for only 38 runs with Dananjaya finishing the match with figures of 4 for 47. 

With wickets tumbling around him and Zimbabwe in danger of choking, Raza (27) ensured the tourists crossed the finish line by smashing 19-year-old spinner Wanidu Hasaranga for six over the long off boundary drawing wild celebrations.

Sitting in the pavilion, tail-ender Tendai Chatara, who was the next man in, could not bear to watch and when the winning runs were scored, he leapt into the arms of coach Heath Streak.

On the pitch just outside the boundary, fielding coach Walter Chawaguta kicked the air in celebration before embracing bowling coach Makhaya Ntini.

Raza on the other hand, punched the air with his right fist three times before hugging captain Graeme Cremer, who finished unbeaten on 11.

Cremer said the tourists had almost succumbed to pressure as the constant fall of wickets threatened to stop them from reaching the target.

“It was a bit.....I don’t know how to put it. It was pressure, but we needed just one small partnership to get over the line,” Cremer said.

“Happy that Sikandar came to the party. It turned around very quickly but happy we pulled it off in the end.

“We knew they were expecting seam on both ends.

“Raza is a definite weapon with the new ball. I was hoping for a breakthrough or two and he gave us that in the Powerplay.

“I usually always call heads, decided to change today and it worked out well.

“This win is very special; fans must be jumping around back home. We knew we’re playing good enough cricket to put them under pressure.”

Raza said: “To win the series with the bunch of boys we have; I can’t be happier. Skipper asked me in the morning and I said I’d like to bowl the first over. He trusted me and it paid off. I’m so happy it worked out for the team.”

Mire added: “Spectacular win! It’s a happy moment for a lot of Zimbabweans around the world.

“I haven’t played here before, it was a new experience for me and I’ll take a lot of confidence out of this tour.”

Batting coach Lance Klusener said they will party all night long before starting preparations for the one-off Test against the hosts which starts on Friday.

“Pleased for the boys; we’ve come a long way in the last six months. Credit to them for embracing Sri Lanka, it’s a tough place so to win and it is a wonderful feeling,” the South African said.

“We’re really going to enjoy this and then we’ll move on to the Test match. We have to reap the rewards for the effort so we’ll celebrate hard tonight.”

Under-fire Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Matthews admitted that the tourists were full value for the series win.

“We’ve been outplayed in all departments. Credit to Zimbabwe, they gave us a really tough time and we didn’t have any answers,” a disappointed Matthews said.

“Even though conditions were tough to bat on, 200 was way below what we expected.

“They have a good batting line-up so 203 was not enough.”

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