Sri Lanka beat Zimbabwe by 225-run victory to win the first Test at Harare Sports Club on Tuesday. Sri Lankan spinners Rangana Herath and Dilruwan Perera played an instrumental role in carving out the Island nation's victory by taking three wickets apiece in Zimbabwe's second innings.
After declaring on their overnight total of 247 for six to set Zimbabwe 412 for victory on the final day, Sri Lanka were under threat of being held to a draw as Graeme Cremer once again proved to be the thorn in their side with his stubborn 43.
But Herath finished with figures of 3 for 38, which included the key wickets of Cremer and Sean Williams, and Perera took 3 for 34 as Zimbabwe were bowled out for 186 with just 7.3 overs left in the game.
A rollercoaster of a final day began with Zimbabwe makinga strong start to their innings, as openers Tino Mawoyo andBrian Chari saw off the new ball.
Even after Chari was bowled in Lahiru Kumara's first overto depart for 10, Mawoyo found solid support from HamiltonMasakadza as the pair batted for almost an hour.
However a poor umpiring decision changed the complexionof the game, as Mawoyo was given out lbw to Perera by umpireSimon Fry, with replays showing that the ball was comfortablymissing leg stump.
The DRS review system was not used in this match althoughwill be operating in the second Test in Harare from Sunday. Mawoyo's departure for 37 sparked a heavy collapse, asZimbabwe fell from 68 for one to 74 for five in the space offour overs.
"We were really happy with the start we had, but thenwhen we started to lose a few wickets we panicked," said Cremer. Perera trapped Craig Ervine lbw in his next over, and inthe following over Lakmal dismissed both Masakadza, for 20,and Malcolm Waller.
With another decision going against Zimbabwe after lunch, when Peter Moor was given out lbw by umpire Ian Gould to aKumara delivery that was bouncing over the stumps, the end wasin sight for the hosts.
But Williams was joined by Cremer, whose unbeaten centuryheadlined the Zimbabwe first innings, and the pair saw thehosts through the next 80 minutes to the tea interval.
Needing four wickets in the final session to wrap thegame up, Herath stepped forward to have Williams caught atslip for 40 before trapping Donald Tiripano lbw.
Yet Cremer fought on, taking his innings towards thethree-hour mark and his score to 43.
With less than 10 overs to go, the Zimbabwe captain had arush of blood to the head and was stumped off the bowling ofHerath. "I blame myself for losing this game," said the man ofthe match. "If I was there then at least if Carl (Mumba) orChris (Mpofu) had got out then I would have felt a lot betterabout myself, but I think my wicket was the turning point inus losing this game."
Mumba and Mpofu lasted a further three overs, beforePerera sealed the game by bowling the latter for a duck,consigning Zimbabwe to defeat in their 100th Test.
"I tell you a lot of credit goes to the fast bowlers,"said Herath. "There was not much assistance for the spinnersand the Zimbabweans batted well. But the fast bowlers playedtheir heart out and gave 100%."