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Rangana Herath troubled Zimbabwe's batsmen with drift from around the stumps © Associated Press

Herath strikes leave Zimbabwe in a muddle

WT24 Desk

After taking three wickets in the morning session, Sri Lanka were left to relish not just a hearty lunch, but also the outside chance of enforcing a follow-on against Zimbabwe on day three of the second Test in Harare. An unorthodox approach that centred on taking on the spinners resulted in Zimbabwe stumbling from their overnight 126 for 2 to 210 for 5 at lunch, still trailing Sri Lanka by 294 runs.

On a surface that seemed to be at its best for batting, Zimbabwe didn’t do themselves any favours with their shot selection. Among the litany of indiscretions were flashy drives that flew either over or wide of the slip cordon, hard jabs against Rangana Herath that lobbed to silly point, inside-edges that fell safe, an audacious attempt to reverse sweep that hit the forearm and many other pokes to away-going deliveries that missed the edge.

Craig Ervine was the first to fall, when he poked an away-going delivery from Suranga Lakmal to Dimuth Karunaratne at second slip in the eighth over, to end a 117-run stand. It followed a narrow escape in the previous over, when he was given out attempting a reverse sweep, only to be reprieved by the DRS. Then it was Brian Chari’s turn. On 60 overnight, Chari significantly mellowed down and kept stabbing forward with his bat well in front of the pad. But, batting on 80, he missed an arm ball from Herath that sneaked through to hit the stumps.

Things could have been worse had Kusal Perera stumped Sean Williams on 29. Williams stepped out to Dilruwan Perera, only to be deceived in flight as the ball spun away to beat the edge. Kusal, in his eagerness to remove the bails, failed to gather the ball cleanly. The timing of that let-off, just 15 minutes before lunch, didn’t stop the batsmen from playing their shots. Malcolm Waller was guilty of throwing his wicket away in the last over before the break when he went with hard hands to drive Herath, only to spoon a low catch to cover.

Predictably, spin dominated proceedings with Herath and Dilruwan trying to exploit the rough patches from where the odd ball spun. While Chari was circumspect, Ervine was the initial aggressor as Zimbabwe’s attempt to drive the game forward resulted in a few boundaries that flew off edges. Against spin, though, he was largely orthodox, using his feet to either go through with the shot or get outside the line to eliminate the lbw and sweep along the ground. One wicket was all it took, however, for doubts to creep into the batsmen’s minds as a measured approach gave way to attempts to throw the bowlers off. The approach could hurt them in their quest to save the follow-on and perhaps even the match. ESPNCricinfo reports.

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