Onus on Zimbabwe to keep the series alive

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Zimbabwe players celebrate a wicket during the first ODI in Pellekele on Sunday AFP/Getty Images

Kandy – After succumbing to a five-wicket defeat in a tightly-contested opening ODI, the onus would be on Zimbabwe to keep the three-match series alive against Sri Lanka on Tuesday (January 18).

The visitors had little to worry about in terms of batting in Game 1 and the only complaint would be missing out on the 300-run mark that seemed very much on the cards the way they started courtesy debutant Takudzwanashe Kaitano’s fine 42 at the top.

Nonetheless, their 296 – largely owing to Sean Williams’s 5th ODI hundred that came off just 86 deliveries – was strong enough to challenge a depleted home side on Palekelle’s wicket that was expected to slow down and aid spin in the second half. To their surprise, the track under lights held up alright and Sri Lanka, despite being under pressure, navigated their way to victory and two crucial Super League points.

Opener Pathum Nissanka built the platform and a 129-run crucial stand between rookie Charith Asalanka and veteran Dinesh Chandimal sealed the deal in a closely fought contest. Asalanka continues to impress in his short ODI career, notching up a fine 68-ball 71 that put the team on the brink, while Chandimal, also on a comeback trail, top-scored with 75, taking point in the game-changing fourth wicket partnership at a crucial juncture in the chase.

While the bowlers struggled for control in both innings, Richard Ngarava stood out for snapping three of Sri Lanka’s five wickets that fell even as the game slipped away from them. However, Zimbabwe’s fight has proven that they were only marginally short of pulling off a victory – something that would keep Sri Lanka on their toes as they seek to prop up their frail position in the Super League standings sans all the stars.

When: Tuesday, January 18 at 2:30 PM Local

Where: Pallekele International Cricket Stadium, Pallekele

What to expect: Partly cloudy skies but nothing that looks threatening enough to cause an interruption.

Team News

Sri Lanka: The home side has little reason to tinker with the winning combination. They could go in unchanged, looking for that unassailable series lead.

Likely XI: Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wk), Kamindu Mendis, Dinesh Chandimal, Charith Asalanka, Dasun Shanaka (C), Chamika Karunaratne, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffery Vandersay, Chamika Gunasekara, Nunwan Pradeep

Zimbabwe: The visitors would look to avoid any knee jerk reactions and back the same XI to take the field once again and force a decider on Friday.

Likely XI: Takudzwanashe Kaitano, Regis Chakabva (wk), Craig Ervine (C), Sean Williams, Wesley Madhevere, Sikandar Raza, Ryan Burl, Wellington Masakadza, Blessing Muzarabani, Tendai Chatara, Richard Ngarava

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