Liyanage, lower order defy Ngarava brilliance to take Sri Lanka home

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Colombo – A fabulous knock from Janith Liyanage (95 off 127) in just his second ODI coupled with stiff lower order resistance helped Sri Lanka to eke out a thrilling win over Zimbabwe in the second match of the three-game series in Colombo on Monday (January 8).

Chasing a below-par target of 209, the hosts were tottering at 53/4 and 112/6 but Liyanage led the rearguard along with invaluable contributions from the tail.

After almost having the game in the bag through Richard Ngarava’s maiden five-wicket haul, Zimbabwe weren’t able to close out the match and ended up suffering a heartbreak.

The pattern wasn’t too different in the first innings when the tourists got going with Craig Ervine stitching fifty partnerships with Joylord Gumbie, Milton Shumba and Ryan Burl.

This meant that Zimbabwe were on course for a strong total despite losing a wicket off just the third ball of the match.

Ervine in particular looked in fine touch as he handled the pacers with sublime timing while tackling spin with nimble footwork. Gumbie and Shumba were far from assured during their respective stays but dug in for a while to add the partnerships.

But neither batter could kick on and the failure of Sikandar Raza meant that Burl had to get into the act.

The strong left-hander played in his typically aggressive style while Ervine kept motoring along at the other end.

At 182/4 in the 37th over, the visitors were eyeing a score well in excess of 250, perhaps even 275.

And then, the innings crashlanded. Dushmantha Chameera bowled a vicious second spell in which he removed both batters off his successive overs.

Janith Liyanage

Maheesh Theekshana then came back in his final spell to clean up the innings along with Jeffrey Vandersay.

The last six wickets fell for just 26 runs as Zimbabwe imploded out of nowhere to end on a score that was well below-par.

However, the new ball zipped around under lights as was the case in the opening ODI and Zimbabwe’s pacers made full use of it to rattle the Lankans early in the chase.

Ngarava was the standout as he picked the first four wickets to fall, using his left-arm angle and the help from the surface to good effect.

There were some soft dismissals as well and Sri Lanka found themselves in a rut.

Liyanage, though, quietly got going at one end and it was his 56-run stand with Theekshana that revived the hosts’ chances of getting over the line.

As the partnership flourished, pressure told on Zimbabwe who got sloppy towards the end.

But, Zimbabwe fought back as both batters fell in the space of six deliveries to spark another twist in the game. Sri Lanka still needed 37 and with just two wickets left, the tourists were on the brink of taking the series lead.

Chameera and Vandersay, however, showed tremendous grit to fight it out till the end and eventually sealed the chase with an over to spare.

Both players have been known for their abilities to hang in there while batting and those qualities came to fore under pressure today.

Brief scores: Zimbabwe 208 in 44.4 overs (Craig Ervine 82; Maheesh Theekshana 4-31) lost to Sri Lanka 211/8 in 49 overs (Janith Liyanage 95; Richard Ngarava 5-32) by two wickets.

© Cricbuzz

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