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Zimbabwe fold for 154 in tri-series opener

On a dank morning at the Harare Sports Club, both captains, Upul Tharanga and Graeme Cremer were vying to win the toss and bowl first. After a heavy downpour on the previous day which left the ground quite damp, the bowlers were expected to make the most of both seam and swing on offer. The otherwise impassive, Upul Tharanga let out a smile immediately after calling it right at the toss and didn't hesitate to insert the hosts in, on a wicket which had spent fair amount of time sweating under covers and had a greenish tinge, too. With their once-upon-a-time strike bowler, Nuwan Kulasekara making a comeback into the side, Sri Lanka's pace battery was bolstered further. The decision at the toss paid off with Zimbabwe being bowled out for a meek 154 runs.

Brian Chari, who earned an ODI call-up riding on his superlative 80 in the second Test against Sri Lanka, came out to open the innings with Chamu Chibhabha. Chibhabha exuded confidence when he punched a rising ball through point for the first boundary of the game in the third over. Ideally, the first boundary should have set the tone for the hosts but they were dented immediately after it as Chari (7) flirted with an away-swinger to edge it to second slip . Lakmal came up with further damage when Craig Ervine who was just one-delivery old, played a lazy drive to hand a simple catch to the second slip fielder to perish for a blob. Within a space of six deliveries, the minnows had now lost their third wicket too with Sikandar Raza (1) flicking one straight to mid-wicket. Zimbabwe were now 14 for three in less than five overs.

Introduced into the attack in the second powerplay, Sachith Pathirana produced a thick outside edge on the first delivery, only for Dhananjaya de Silva to drop a sharp chance at first slip of Sean Williams. However, the dropped chance didn't cost them much as Williams (9) shimmied down on the final ball of the over to be stumped comfortably by Niroshan Dickwella. 

Zimbabwe's innings thus far had been laden with as much problems as the sightscreen which went haywire in the 13th over, the second time in the day. The keeper-batsman Peter Moor appeared unruffled by the situation though when he heaved a Pathirana ball from the crease for a big six, the first of the game. Taking cue, Chibhabha played the best shot of the day till then, sending a lovely cover drive for four. Just after drinks, Chibhabha, who had been waging a lone battle till then, got out leg-before while missing a flick. The review failed him too as he had to depart after a 45-ball stay for just 18 runs. Playing his 203rd ODI, Chigumbura hardly exhibited his experience as he pushed nervously at a Pradeep delivery to nick it to the keeper on 1. Zimbabwe were now 50 for six.

Leading Zimbabwe's recovery, Cremer and Moor got together at the crease and kept the scoreboard moving without taking too many risks. But the free-flowing Moor changed his plans as he went after the left-armer Shehan Jayasuriya, launching him for two sixes in back to back overs. Kulasekara had to face the wrath too when Moor pulled him brilliantly in front of square for his fourth six before getting trapped plumb in front off the very next ball. Moor fell agonisingly short of his third fifty, dismissed for 47.

Donald Tiripano and Cremer hung on for just above ten overs, adding 31 runs for the eighth-wicket as Sri Lanka tried debutant Asela Gunaratne and Pathirana in this passage of play. Just when the tourists were starting to look frustrated, Tiripano (19) hit one straight down the throat of the long on fielder in the 38th over. He struck back again in the next over to send back his fellow debutant, Carl Mumba with an indipper for just one run. The right-arm medium pacer's day kept getting better as he picked up his third wicket to send back Tinashe Panyangara for only 12 runs before Zimbabwe were bowled out for just 154 in 41.3 overs.

Brief Scores: Zimbabwe 154 in 41.3 overs (Peter Moor 47, Graeme Cremer 31*; Asela Gunaratne 3-21)



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