Zimbabwe hang on for historic series win

Zimbabwe sealed an historic series victory over Sri Lanka on Monday, beating the hosts by three wickets in the fifth and final ODI in Hambantota with more than 11 overs to spare.

It was Zimbabwe’s first series victory against Sri Lanka and also the Africa side’s first away series success in eight years and they clinched it 3-2.

Chasing a tricky target of 204 on what seemed a difficult pitch, Zimbabwe got off to a fantastic start as openers Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire put on 92 for the first wicket in 14.2 overs.

Asela Gunaratne broke the partnership when he bowled Mire around his legs for 43 off just 32 balls but Masakadza found an able partner in Tarisai Musakanda to carry on the good work.

While the new batsman was getting settled, Masakdaza continued on his merry way at the other end and got to his half-century off 55 balls, his second fifty of the series.

The right-hander did offer a chance to Lasith Malinga in the 22nd over as the bowler dropped a sharp return catch as Masakadza drilled the ball straight at him.

Masakadza though did not last long after as Malinga got his man for 73 two overs later thanks to a superb catch by Nuwan Kulasekara at mid-off.

Craig Ervine (2) did not last long and was out plumb lbw to the bowling of off-spinner Akila Dananjaya with Zimbabwe still well in control at that stage on 148-3 in the 27th over.

Dananjaya then removed Sean Williams (2) two overs later as the African side showed glimpses of a serious wobble. However, Musakanda had his eye firmly in at that stage and was in no mood for the home team to spoil their party.

Musakanda slammed a couple of boundaries and looked comfortable on his way to 37 but the 22-year-old had something of brain fade as he tried to smack Dananjaya out of the ground but could only present a catch to long-on, 165/5.

The pressure of the run-chase got the better of Malcolm Waller as he was caught and bowled by Malinga for a single as the nerves really started to tell.

The slide for Zimbabwe continued as Peter Moore also went for a single as his team slipped to 175/7, still needing 29 runs to win.

However, Sikandar Raza (27 not out off 29 balls) displayed a calm head under the most intense pressure and together with his captain Graeme Cremer ( 11 not out) saw the team over the line with more than 11 overs to spare.

Earlier, Raza also starred with the ball as he finshed with figures of 3-21 in 10 overs as the visitors restricted the home team to total of 203/8 in their 50 overs.

And even that score flattered the Sri Lankans as it was only an unbeaten partnership of 50 for the ninth wicket between Gunaratne (59 not out) and Dushmantha Chameera (18 not out) that propelled the total towrds the end.

The only other batsman to make a significant contribution was opener Danushka Gunathilaka, who scored 52.

The teams will now play a one-off Test match, starting at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Friday.