COLOMBO: Niroshan Dickwella and Asela Gunaratne guided Sri Lanka to a record 388 target to beat Zimbabwe by four wickets Tuesday in a pulsating end to their one-off Test.
A crucial 121-run sixth-wicket stand between Gunaratne (80 not out) and Dickwella (81) secured Sri Lanka´s best-ever run chase.
Their previous best was against South Africa in 2006, when they reached 352. Tuesday´s chase was also the highest in Asia and fifth best in all Tests.
Man-of-the-match Gunaratne anchored the pursuit to perfection after Dickwella´s departure, putting on an unbeaten 67-run partnership with Dilruwan Perera (29) to take the hosts to victory.
The win was a boost for new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal and eased Sri Lanka´s pain after a shock defeat in the one-day series against the minnows.
“It´s always tough when you´re batting in the fourth innings but I told the team that they should play their normal game and they played some outstanding innings, especially Dickwella and Asela,” Chandimal said.
“It´s always challenging as a captain but it´s about doing the right things on and off the field,” said Chandimal, who took over after Angelo Mathews quit because of the ODI loss.
Zimbabwe skipper Graeme Cremer claimed four wickets with his leg-spin to return overall figures of 9-275 at Colombo´s R. Premadasa Stadium.
But Gunaratne, an all-rounder who played most of the Test only as a batsman after injuring his hamstring in the first innings, tackled the Zimbabwe spinners with ease during his 151-ball stay.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Dickwella rode his luck to reach 81 before being caught behind off left-arm spinner Sean Williams while attemping an audacious reverse sweep.
When he was on 37 he survived a stumping chance off Sikandar Raza´s off-spin, and was dropped by wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva on 63.
The stumping reprieve cost Zimbabwe dearly. It was referred to the third umpire, who ruled him not out despite replays showing his toe was on the crease — a case in which the batsman can be given out.
“From what I saw, I honestly didn´t see any doubt why it should be not out, but it´s just one of those things,” Cremer said of the decision by Indian umpire Chettithody Shamshuddin.
“I suppose you have technology and it clearly shows… it´s tough when those things go against you when you are trying to win a Test match on the last day.”
Earlier, Cremer sent overnight batsman Kusal Mendis trudging back to the pavilion for 66 after Sri Lanka resumed on 170-3.
Cremer struck again to have Mathews caught and bowled for 25. The visitors scented victory but it was not to be for the 10th-ranked side.
“We knew Sri Lanka had to play well batting on the last day chasing 388. We tried hard,” said Cremer.
“We have missed a few opportunities, but I am very proud about the way the guys played.
“To win the ODI series and to push them in the Test match, taking it to the last day, was a very good effort from the boys,” he added.
Sri Lanka´s veteran left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took the man of the series award for his overall match figures of 11-249.
Zimbabwe batsman Craig Ervine´s 160 in the first innings and all-rounder Raza´s 127 in the second were among the notable performances for the tourists.
Sri Lanka host the number-one ranked India for three Tests, five one-day internationals and a single Twenty20 starting this month.