Lunch Zimbabwe 96 for 4 (Ervine 19*, Raza 17*, Herath 2-36) v Sri Lanka
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There was a little grass on the pitch on the eve of the game, and the quicks got their token new-ball overs, bless ’em, but one look at the tawny pitch at Khettarama, and you knew Rangana Herath was going to bowl early.
And so he did. The eighth over of the day was Herath’s. With his third delivery, he bowled Regis Chakabva through the gate, and with his 17th, he had Hamilton Masakadza caught at short leg. Zimbabwe, who had begun with a little confidence as Masakadza struck early square boundaries, suddenly found themselves at 38 for 2.
It would get worse. Tarisai Musakanda’s maiden Test innings would come to an end when he was shown to have sent a faint edge to the keeper, off the bowling of Lahiru Kumara. Sean Williams and Craig Ervine then attempted a recovery of sorts – Williams drove the score forward with a selection of cuts, sweeps and reverse-sweeps, but eventually perished as a result of this ambition. Attempting to sweep Dilruwan Perera against the turn in the 21st over, he could do little more than send a top edge towards square leg, where Asela Gunaratne held the catch. In 26 balls faced, Williams had hit 22 – the most for a Zimbabwe batsman in this session. Zimbabwe would go to lunch at 96 for 4, having won the toss and chosen to bat.
That the spinners were able to exert such pressure on the visiting batsmen was not surprising given he nature of the surface. There was fast turn on offer, at times, and when Herath and Perera tossed their deliveries up, they often beat the bat. Already the pitch has registered the seam-bowlers’ footmarks, which suggests the surface will only become evermore spin-friendly through the remainder of the day.
Though the opening session gave them little joy, Zimbabwe will at least reflect that their team selection suited the conditions. They have batsmen till No. 8, with Malcolm Waller and Peter Moor to follow the current pair of Ervine and Sikandar Raza, and when it comes time to bowl, they have four spin options.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @andrewffernando
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