Batsman Craig Ervine hit an unbeaten 151 to pull Zimbabwe out of trouble on the opening day of their one-off Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo on Friday.
Ervine’s career-best effort lifted Zimbabwe from a precarious 70-4 to 344-8 at stumps. Sri Lanka left-arm spinner Rangana Herath took four wickets.
The left-handed batsman held on with Donald Tiripano (24 not out) at the end of play, putting on a frustrating 62-run stand for the ninth wicket.
Ervine, who surpassed his previous Test best of 146 against New Zealand in Bulawayo last year, built crucial partnerships including a 84-run fifth-wicket stand with Sikandar Raza (36).
It was the 31-year-old’s second Test ton in the 12th Test of his seven-year-old international career. He swept Herath for a single to achieve the feat.
“It was very satisfying as I had not got a big one away from home. To get a hundred in Sri Lanka and in a Test match means a lot to me,” Ervine said at the end of the day’s play.
“At the start, the wicket was a little bit damp. But once it dried out, it was nice to bat on. We wanted to have a good rate throughout the day.
“I thought we may have given couple of wickets away. Other than that we have done really well. Hopefully tomorrow we can put on another 50-60 runs on the board,” Ervine added.
Herath, 39, who returned figures of 4-106, provided early delight for Sri Lanka’s new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal after he lost the toss.
Herath sent back openers Regis Chakabva for 12 and Hamilton Masakadza for 19 to rattle the Zimbabwe top-order at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Paceman Lahiru Kumara got debutant batsman Tarisai Musakanda caught behind for six as Zimbabwe suffered regular losses in the first two sessions.
Herath took Raza and then Malcolm Waller (36) but Ervine, who piled on the runs while playing the sweep and the reverse sweep, stood firm from one end to thwart Sri Lanka’s bowlers.
Medium-pace bowler Asela Gunaratne claimed two wickets while off-spinner Dilruwan Perera and Kumara took one each.
“It is a bit disappointing to end up at 340 for 8 after taking the top four wickets cheaply. But this is Test cricket and I have got to give credit to Craig Ervine,” Sri Lankan manager Asanka Gurusinha said.
“It was a really good knock and he batted well.”
Graeme Cremer’s Zimbabwe are on a high after their victory in the one-day series this week.