Tillakaratne Dilshan stroked a second successive half-century as Sri Lanka raced to the top of the triangular series table after picking up a bonus-point victory in a clinical nine-wicket demolition of Zimbabwe in Bulawayo yesterday. Dilshan blasted 60 not out from 45 deliveries, hitting seven fours and a six over the long-on, to knock off the winning runs with 10.4 overs to spare in a match, reduced to 26 over a side after morning showers had left the outfield wet and force a delayed start to the third game of series.
"We are happy we got the bonus point, and that gives us a huge advantage," said Dilshan, the captain, in a post-match television interview. "The bowlers did a pretty good job to get Zimbabwe out to a low score, and then after six or seven overs we were going well and went for the bonus point. I am also happy with my own form and I hope to take it forward." Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain, was understandably disappointed but remained hopeful of bouncing back.
"Building an innings has been a problem," he said in his post- match television interview. "We lost four wickets in a short space of time. We need to improve on that. I think we fell 40-50 run short of a competitive score. "It was difficult to get to that score after losing those wickets. It was a very disappointing we didn't play well and we couldn't bat the 26 overs, but we are still hopeful of our chances."
Zimbabwe, who pulled off a remarkable victory over India in their first game when they chased down 285, could not repeat their batting heroics. Sent into bat, they were bowled out for 118 with seven deliveries still left. Hamilton Masakadza fought a lone battle by scoring more than half the team's total. He started aggressively but had to tone down his style of play after wickets continued to tumble at the other end.
Masakadza made 62 from 69 deliveries, hitting four fours and a six, but did not receive any support from the others. He opened the innings and was second last to out trying to pull as short ball from Dilhara Fernando and Nuwan Kulasekera held on to a tumbling catch. The spinners, led by Ajantha Mendis, did most of the damage by claiming seven of the nine wickets to fall to the bowlers. Fernando, the paceman, gave them the breakthrough when he had Brendan Taylor caught behind for two and from there onwards the spinners took charge.
Mendis struck twice before Suraj Randiv, the man of the match with three for 23, and two for 12 from Jeevan Mendis, the debutant all-rounder who came in place of the injured Angelo Mathews, gate-crashed to the party Dilshan and Upul Tharanga gave Sri Lanka a solid start with a breezy 86-run stand in 65 balls for the opening wicket before Tharanga was run out for a second successive time. He had been the more adventurous at the start, hitting half-a-dozen fours for a 37-ball 40. But Dilshan, after a cautious start, took control to guide his team to victory along with Dinesh Chandimal, who also took his captain's place as wicketkeeper after Thilan Samaraweera, the batsman, was left out.
Zimbabwe meet India tomorrow in Harare in the first of the second-round matches with all three teams tied on one win apiece * Compiled by Amith Passela, with agencies