Sun, 23 Feb 2020

Tea Sri Lanka 466 for 6 (Mathews 176*, Lakmal 3*, Dickwella, 63, Nyauchi 3-69) lead Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 108 runs

For the sixth successive session of batting, Sri Lanka lost just one wicket. Yet again, Angelo Mathews remained unbeaten. Having now established a lead of 108, with four wickets still remaining, Sri Lanka are the only side with a reasonable chance of winning this Test. That they lost one of their most aggressive batsmen - Niroshan Dickwella - however, means that their ability to quickly stretch their lead before a potential declaration has been dented.

Mathews could conceivably strike a few big blows, of course. But he's batted 427 deliveries already - evidence that he has seriously raised his fitness levels over the past few months. This was his most assured session yet, rarely missing or mis-hitting a ball, and even hitting four boundaries in the space of 15 deliveries towards the end of the session, which he finished 24 short of what would be Sri Lanka's first double-century in five years. The personal accolades might please him, but it is the team that Mathews' diligence has served best. Although even now his strike rate is still below 42, his diligence has meant that Sri Lanka can conceivably bat just once in this match. That is so long as the tail doesn't collapse after tea.

Dickwella, his partner for most of the afternoon session, was himself fairly measured, hitting only one boundary in the first 87 balls he faced, though he did frequently collect singles, twos and threes into the outfield to keep his strike rate up near 50. He was dropped on 45 off the bowling of Victor Nyauchi, but was out for 63 in the final overs of the session, missing a sweep off the bowling of Sikandar Raza, to be struck in front of off stump.

The sweep had been productive for Dickwella, but he only played one of his characteristic reverse sweeps through the course of his innings, and didn't attempt a scoop. His urgency between the wickets was one reason why Sri Lanka scored at 3.31 in the session - a better rate than they have managed for much of this innings, which has now stretched to 163 overs.

Earlier in the day, Nyauchi had bowled another testing spell, beating Mathews' outside edge repeatedly, and then taking Dhananjaya de Silva's wicket before lunch. De Silva was the most positive batsman in Sri Lanka's innings so far, and had perished trying to score quick runs, miscuing Nyauchi into the hands of mid on, to be dismissed for 63.

Despite Raza's wicket late in the second session, Zimbabwe's spinners have been modest in comparison to the seamers. Left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu created one half-chance - Mathews dropped by the wicketkeeper off his bowling, when Mathews had been on 108. But he remains wicketless after 26 overs.

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