Captain Angelo Mathews struck an unbeaten 92 as Sri Lanka posted 295 for four at the close of the third day of the first Test against Zimbabwe on Tuesday, putting his side in the driving seat at the Harare Sports Club.
Sri Lanka trail Zimbabwe’s first innings total of 358 by 63 runs, but have six wickets in hand to pass that on day four and leave their hosts likely needing to bat out their second innings to save the Test on what is a slow wicket.
Mathews has taken 253 balls on his way to what he hopes will be a 10th Test century and first in over a year. He will be joined at the crease on Wednesday by Dhananjaya de Silva (42 not out) as the pair share an unbeaten fifth wicket stand of 68.
Sri Lanka started the third day on 42 for one and advanced that score to 92 before captain Dimuth Karunaratne (37) became a first Test wicket for Zimbabwe seamer Victor Nyauchi (2-38) as he was caught at short mid-wicket by another debutant, Ainsley Ndlovu.
Kusal Mendis (80) looked comfortable before he employed a wild heave at a Nyauchi delivery and was caught at slip by Brendan Taylor.
And Zimbabwe will have felt right in the game when they removed Dinesh Chandimal (12), caught and bowled by captain Sean Williams with the score on 227.
But Matthews and De Silva set about steadying the innings again and have given Sri Lanka a platform from which to launch on day four in search of quick runs to build a lead.
The tour was hastily arranged, having only been announced on Jan. 8. Zimbabwe, returning to Test cricket for the first time since their tour of Bangladesh in 2018, were briefly suspended by the International Cricket Council last year because of government interference in the sport, but were reinstated in October.
The second Test will also be played at the Harare Sports Club, starting on January 27.