Mendis stays firm in record Lanka chase

Zimbabwe's Sikandar Raza celebrates scoring a century during the fourth day of the only Test cricket match between Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Monday. — AP

COLOMBO — Kusal Mendis scored a fluent half-century to keep Sri Lanka's hopes of chasing a record 388 alive on day four of the one-off Test against Zimbabwe on Monday. The hosts were 170 for three at stumps, with Mendis (60) batting alongside Angelo Mathews (17) at Colombo's R. Premadasa Stadium.

Sri Lanka's highest-ever successful run chase was against South Africa in 2006, when they achieved their 352-run target in Colombo. Zimbabwe skipper Graeme Cremer dented the hosts with his leg-spin, claiming the important wickets of Upul Tharanga (27) and his opposite number Dinesh Chandimal (15).

Opener Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled by left-arm spinner Sean Williams for 49 as the visitors persisted with an all-spin attack in the 48 overs bowled in the innings so far. Karunaratne said Cremer — who bagged his maiden five-wicket Test haul in Sri Lanka's first innings — would pose the biggest threat on a fifth-day track.

"We have got to watch out for Cremer. He is creating the most trouble. There is lot of assistance for the wrist spinner," Karunaratne told reporters. "We have already got 170 runs on the board... once the ball gets softer, it gets easier. If these two guys are able to hang in there for one and a half hours we will get into an interesting position."

Mendis, who fought off hamstring trouble in the final session of play, put together an unbeaten 37-run stand with Mathews to take the delicately poised Test into its final day.

Zimbabwe were earlier bowled out for 377 in the second session, with Sikandar Raza (127) top-scoring for the visitors with his maiden Test century. Cremer was the last man out for 48 off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who returned figures of 6-133 to take his match tally to 11 wickets.

The Pakistan-born Raza steered the team's middle and lower order to help his side accumulate another 318 runs after being reduced to 59-5 on day three. Raza's 144-run partnership with Malcolm Waller (68) was the highlight of the Zimbabwe innings after the pair resumed on the overnight score of 252-6.

"Feels great to get my maiden Test hundred," said all-rounder Raza, who also opened Zimbabwe's bowling with his off-spin. "All the batters put up a tremendous show. Brilliant effort by all the guys to get us into this position. The result of this game now can go our way."

Zimbabwe are seeking their first-ever Test win against Sri Lanka, who are looking for redemption under new Test captain Chandimal. He took over from Mathews, who resigned after calling the one-day series loss a "hard pill to swallow".

Afghans replace Aussies for South Africa 'A' tour

Afghanistan have replaced Australia in a development tour of South Africa after the latter pulled out due to a pay dispute between its players and board. With talks between the union and governing body cricket Australia deadlocked, the players decided they would boycott the triangular series between the 'A' sides.

Australia's 'A' team, captained by Test batsman Usman Khawaja, were scheduled to play two four-day matches and a 50-over tri-series against India and South Africa on the tour. Afghanistan will now join South Africa and India for the series starting later this month.

"We are delighted that Afghanistan have accepted our invitation and look forward to welcoming them to our country for the very first time," cricket South Africa chief executive Haroon Lorgat said in a statement.

"We are very pleased to accept cricket South Africa's invitation to participate in the upcoming triangular series," Afghanistan cricket Board chief executive Shafiqullah Stanikzai said. "This will be our first-ever visit to South Africa and I am certain that this will give Afghanistan 'A' team very good exposure to competitive cricket."

Dhawan replaces injured opener Vijay

Shikhar Dhawan has replaced injured opener Murali Vijay in India's squad for the three-Test series in Sri Lanka starting later this month.

The right-handed batsman, 33, underwent surgery on his wrist in England following the four-test series against Australia and missed the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League twenty20 tournament.

"Vijay, who had suffered a wrist injury during Australia's tour of India, has complained of pain in his right wrist, while playing a preparatory match," the Indian cricket board (BCCI) said in a statement on Monday. "The BCCI medical team has therefore advised that Vijay should continue his rehabilitation program."

Dhawan, 31, returned to India's test side following injuries to the regular openers and played the second test against New Zealand in Kolkata last September before he was also ruled out with a hand injury. KL Rahul and Abhinav Mukund are the other opening batsmen in India's squad. The first Test starts in Galle on July 26.

Full squad: Virat Kohli (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain), Rohit Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha (wicket-keeper), Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Abhinav Mukund. — Agencies


Zimbabwe 1st innings 356

Sri Lanka 1st innings 346

Zimbabwe 2nd innings

H. Masakadza lbw b Herath 7

R. Chakabva b Herath 6

T. Musakanda c Karunaratne b Herath 0

C. Ervine c Karunaratne b Perera 5

S. Williams b Herath 22

S. Raza b Herath 127

P. Moor c sub (Gunathilaka) b Kumara 40

M. Waller c Tharanga b Perera 68

G. Cremer c Karunaratne b Herath 48

D. Tiripano lbw b Perera 19

C. Mpofu not out 9

Extras (b4, lb14, w7, nb1) 26

Total (all out; 107.1 overs) 377

Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Chakabva), 2-16 (Musakanda), 3-17 (Masakadza), 4-23 (Ervine), 5-59 (Williams), 6-145 (Moor), 7-289 (Waller), 8-306 (Raza), 9-361 (Tiripano), 10-377 (Cremer)

Bowling: Lakmal 14-0-43-0; Herath 39.1-5-133-6; Perera 30-2-95-3; L. Kumara 20-3-72-1 (nb1, w3); K. Mendis 4-0-16-0

Sri Lanka 2nd innings

D. Karunaratne b Williams 49

U. Tharanga c Moor b Cremer 27

K. Mendis not out 60

D. Chandimal c Masakadza b Cremer 15

A. Mathews not out 17

Extras (lb2) 2

Total (3 wickets; 48 overs) 170

Still to bat: A. Gunaratne, N. Dickwella, D. Perera, R. Herath, S. Lakmal, L. Kumara

Fall of wickets: 1-58 (Tharanga), 2-108 (Karunaratne), 3-133 (Chandimal)

Bowling: Raza 9-1-29-0; Williams 16-0-62-1; Cremer 19-0-67-2; Waller 4-0-10-0