Sri Lanka take series lead against Zimbabwe despite Ngarava's spirited bowling performance


COLOMBO—Sri Lanka took a one-nil series lead after a thrilling two-wicket victory over Zimbabwe at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday. 

Held back by persistent rain, Sri Lanka's tail-enders orchestrated a memorable triumph, thwarting the efforts of left-arm pacer Richard Ngarava, who secured his spectacular maiden five-wicket haul in One Day International (ODI) cricket, finishing with career-best figures of 5-32.

Sri Lanka v Zimbabwe 2nd ODI January 2024 Richard ngarava five wickets
Image Credit: ESPNCricInfo

Zimbabwe had posted a below-par target of 209 for the hosts, a result of a remarkable collapse that saw them lose their last six wickets for just 26 runs. 

However, the Zimbabwean bowling unit exhibited admirable resilience, led by Richard Ngarava's pacing attack; pushing back vigorously in defense of the modest total. 

Early wickets by Ngarava rattled Sri Lanka, as he claimed the first four wickets. Sikandar Raza chipped in with two crucial breakthroughs in the middle overs. 

Later, Ngarava claimed his fifth wicket when he had Maheesh Theekshana caught. Blessing Muzarabani had Sri Lanka top scorer Janith Liyanage leaving Zimbabwe on the verge of an extraordinary victory as only two more wickets were needed.

The Zimbabwe bowling unit had Sri Lanka on the ropes in their chase, particularly when No. 9 Dushmantha Chameera and No. 10 Jeffrey Vandersay came together with Sri Lanka needing 37 to win off 45 balls. 

But the pair displayed a sensible batting performance. 

Ngarava had already been bowled out at this stage, and Muzarabani was the last remaining threat - Craig Ervine having used his most-threatening bowlers up early in his quest for wickets.

Regrettably, Zimbabwe's inability to capitalize on a promising start proved instrumental in Sri Lanka's victory, as their collapse from the 37th over onwards underscored the difference in the outcome. 

A moment of brilliance from Sadeera Samarawickrama, who athletically removed the Chevrons' skipper Craig Ervine, marked the turning point. 

Ervine, who had offered doses of brilliance, forming crucial 50+ partnerships with Gumbie, Shumba, and Burl, expressed regret at their failure to convert a solid start into a significant total in the latter stages of the innings.

The series-deciding match is scheduled to take place on Wednesday at the same venue in Colombo.

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