Sri Lanka 370 for 5 (Mathews 129*, Mendis 80, Nyauchi 3-56) lead Zimbabwe 358 (Ervine 85, Embuldeniya 5-114) by 12 runs
For the fifth time in as many sessions, Sri Lanka lost just one wicket and made steady progress in Harare. Through the course of the fourth morning, Angelo Mathews also completed a hard-fought, tenth Test ton, Dhananjaya de Silva made a fifty, and then Sri Lanka edged into the lead. With Niroshan Dickwella now settled at the crease after de Silva’s dismissal, Sri Lanka will have their sights set on a hefty lead. The most likely route to a result in what has been a slow-burning Test would be for Sri Lanka to bat just once, and bowl Zimbabwe out cheaply in the third innings. The surface, though, has not shown any serious signs of wear yet.
Yet again, debutant Victor Nyauchi was Zimbabwe’s best bowler. He not only claimed the wicket of de Silva, who holed out trying to stroke him aerially down the ground but also threatened Mathews’ outside edge repeatedly, with balls that were angled in, and straightening off the seam. His control was excellent again – he has now bowled 29 overs in the innings and conceded only 56 runs. Senior seamer Kyle Jarvis delivered an earnest spell as well, but the quicks had little support from the spinners, who were only occasionally able to trouble the batsmen.
Early in the day, de Silva had hogged the strike and swiftly moved past 50, while Mathews laboured in sight of his century, having been on 92 overnight. When Mathews was on 96, there was a good shout for lbw, when he shouldered arms to a Donald Tiripano ball that might just have shaved the top of off stump. Next over, when Mathews was on 98, Jarvis hit him on the helmet with a bouncer and thought he had had the batsman caught off his glove when the umpire appeared to be raising his arm. However, it turned out the umpire was just signalling a bouncer.
Eventually, Mathews went to triple figures off the 272nd ball he faced, turning Jarvis into the legside for a single. He had hit seven fours and two sixes in his innings, with only one of those boundaries coming off a seam bowler.
De Silva was dismissed trying to raise the tempo – he had struck the previous ball for four through the covers – but his replacement Dickwella made sure he batted securely through the rest of the session, rather than himself attempting to hit out. Mathews could have been out on 108 as well, when he offered a thick edge to the keeper, who failed to hold on to a very tough chance, off the bowling of Ainsley Ndlovu.
Matt Henry to join New Zealand Test squad as cover for Neil Wagner
Fast bowler Matt Henry has been called up to the New Zealand Test squad as cover for Neil Wagner, who is awaiting the birth of his child. New Zealand Cricket tweeted that Henry will arrive in Wellington on Wednesday evening for the Test starting on Friday.
Henry will join Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Wagner and Kyle Jamieson among the pace options for New Zealand. Even though Lockie Ferguson had returned to the domestic Ford Trophy, coach Gary Stead had said recently that his “loads aren’t anywhere near for us to be able to consider him for four-day [Test] cricket.” Henry, too, has been playing the Ford Trophy but Stead had said picking Jamieson over Henry in the initial squad was a “tough call”.
While Jamieson will be in line for a Test debut after impressing in the recent ODIs, Henry has played 12 Tests, including the Sydney game against Australia last month in which he finished with 1 for 94 and 1 for 54 in New Zealand’s 279-run loss before being dropped.
Overall, Henry has taken 30 Test wickets in his 12 games with an average exceeding 50. He has played two Tests against India – both in India in 2016 – but it was in the World Cup semi-final last year that he troubled them with his 3 for 37 to set up New Zealand’s win.
The hosts will be eager to pose problems for India again, this time because the two Tests count for the World Test Championship, where New Zealand are currently placed sixth with only one win from six games. India, meanwhile, are on top with seven wins from as many games.
Test squad: Kane Williamson (capt.) Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, BJ Watling, Matt Henry
Experienced core gives South Africa hope of knockouts
South Africa continue to tread water between the top tier of T20I teams and the more middling performers and this tournament could be used as a yardstick to measure their progress. On paper, they have all the ingredients of a strong T20I outfit: big-hitters like Laura Wolvaardt and innings builders like Mignon du Preez, fast-bowlers like Shabnim Ismail and consistent containers like Masabata Klaas and they even have a mystery spinner in Suné Luus. But at this event, their level of skill will be secondary to their ability to deal with pressure, and they should now have the experience to handle it well. Six of the 15-member squad have been on the international stage for more than 10 years and four others for more than five. The rest of the group form a strong succession line which bodes well for this competition and they will want the results to reflect that.
Dané van Niekerk (capt), Chloe Tryon, Trisha Chetty, Shabnim Ismail, Marizanne Kapp, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Lizelle Lee, Suné Luus, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Mignon du Preez, Tumi Sekhukhune, Nondumiso Shangase, Laura Wolvaardt
February 23: England, WACA
February 28: Thailand, Canberra
March 1: Pakistan, Sydney Showground
March 3: West Indies, Sydney Showground
T20 World Cup history
South Africa have made first-round exits in all but one of the six previous editions of the tournament. They reached the 2014 semi-final in Dhaka, where they lost to England. Notably, they did not win a match in the first two tournaments they attended, and have only been victorious in eight of 23 T20 World Cup matches, a winning percentage of just over a third.
Series wins over Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the six months after the last T20 World Cup demonstrated the team’s ability to bounce back but defeats to India and, most recently, New Zealand highlighted the gulf between the top teams and the rest.
It’s difficult to look past South Africa’s all-time highest T20 run-scorer Dané van Niekerk and their leading wicket-taker in the format, Shabnim Ismail when highlighting players who the team will rely on, but they will need other contributors. Opener Lizelle Lee will go into the tournament with high expectations after finishing fifth on the Women’s Big Bash League run-charts, , which includes a century and four fifties for the Melbourne Stars, while allrounder Suné Luus‘ legspin could prove an x-factor. Luus took 6 for 45 against New Zealand in their recent ODI Hamilton carried South Africa to a series sweep.
What would be a success at the tournament?
South Africa are targeting the 2021 50-over World Cup for glory so they may be willing to settle for something less in the event. The ICC’s rankings puts them sixth, which suggests that getting out of the group, which includes higher-ranked England and West Indies, will be tough but there’s a powerful motivation for them to punch above their weight. The coaching staff’s contracts end in April and a top-four finish would be a long way to seeing them retained.
Fearless Chamari Atapattu needs support to carry Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have lost their 10 most-recent T20Is – a sequence that goes back to November 2018. Of their previous nine completed matches, Sri Lanka only won one, which means they have lost 18 of their last 19 games. Although there is a small measure of professionalism about women’s cricket on the island – the board having announced better contracts, and organised longer tournaments, over the course of the past year – the senior side has not quite delivered on the promise of their excellent run in the 2014 World Cup.
They are led, however, by Chamari Atapattu, who on her day is as devastating a hitter as can be found in the women’s game, and is in general a fearless and inspirational figure, both on and off the field. But even her very best innings have sometimes failed to haul Sri Lanka to victory. The team’s fortunes at this tournament may largely depend on how much support Atapattu gains from team-mates.
Chamari Atapattu (capt), Harshitha Madavi, Anushka Sanjeewani, Hansima Karunaratne, Shashikala Siriwardene, Nilakshi De Silva, Ama Kanchana, Kavisha Dilhari, Udeshika Prabodhani, Achini Kulasuriya, Hasini Perera, Sathya Sandeepani, Umesha Thimashini, Sugandika Kumari, Dilani Manodara
February 22: New Zealand, Perth
February 24: Australia, Perth
February 29: India, Melbourne
March 2: Bangladesh, Melbourne
T20 World Cup history
Sri Lanka have never made it out of the first round, in six attempts. They have only won seven of the 23 matches they have ever played at the T20 World Cup. Of the opponents they will play in the group stages, they have never beaten New Zealand or Australia, and have beaten India and Bangladesh once apiece in this tournament.
Of their 10 consecutive defeats, only one can be considered to be close. Late last year, they received a 3-0 wallopping at the hands of Australia, in Australia. In one of those games, Atapattu hit 113 off 66 balls, but Sri Lanka had been so modest with the ball, they still lost by 41 runs.
Aside from Chamari Atapattu, who is clearly the talisman, plenty will be expected of allrounder Shashikala Siriwardene who is a former captain and among their most experienced players in the squad. Siriwardene got starts in the recent tour of Australia, but wasn’t quite able to convert those into substantial scores. Since 2018, though, no Sri Lanka bowler has taken more than her 23 wickets. Anushka Sanjeewani, the only batsman apart from Atapattu to make a T20I fifty since 2018, will also be expected to chip in with the bat.
What would be a success at the tournament
Two victories. That would probably be about as much fans can hope for, given the 24 months this team has had. They will hope to beat Bangladesh in the final group game, but will hope to do so having already upset one of New Zealand, Australia or India.
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