Skipper Craig Ervine and an attacking Sikandar Raza set up a 22-run series-levelling win for Zimbabwe in the second one-day international against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.
Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka hit a maiden ODI century but his 102 went in vain as Zimbabwe kept down the hosts to 280-9 and level the three-match series at 1-1 in Kandy.
Raza smashed 56 off 46 deliveries after Ervine’s 91 to guide Zimbabwe to 302 for eight while electing to bat first.
Ervine capitalised on a strong start in a 106-run third wicket partnership with Sean Williams, who made 48.
“It was quite nice to bat, it was coming on nicely,” Ervine, who was named Man of the Match, said after the win.
“We were under a bit of pressure to win today, but hats off to the boys for coming out and showing that, you know, desperation to pull off the win.”
Sri Lankan leg-spinner Jeffrey Vandersay took three wickets for 51 runs, but failed to stop Zimbabwe from surpassing their previous effort of 296 in the opening loss.
Openers Takudzwanashe Kaitano (26) and Regis Chakabva (47) hammered 59 runs inside 10 overs to lay a solid foundation.
Vandersay bowled Takudzwanashe, who made his ODI debut in Sunday’s series opener, and then denied Chababva his fifty after getting the wicketkeeper-batsman stumped.
Ervine stood firm and rebuilt the innings with Williams, who made 100 in Zimbabwe’s opening loss, and the pair soon took the attack to the opposition.
Vandersay broke the stand after getting the left-handed Williams stumped with a googly, with wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis quick to whip the bails off.
Ervine completed his fifty in 56 balls but was nine short of a century after getting bowled by mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana.
Raza, who smashed four fours and one six, kept up the charge in a 41-run partnership with Ryan Burl, who hit 19.
Zimbabwe fast bowlers Tendai Chatara and Blessing Muzarabani put Sri Lanka in trouble at 31-3 and finished with three wickets each.
Kamindu Mendis, who made 57, and Shanaka got together to rebuild the innings with a partnership of 118 for the fifth wicket and raise hopes of a successful chase.
Kamindu recorded his maiden ODI half-century with a boundary and the captain got past his fifty as well three balls later to frustrate the opposition bowlers.
Richard Ngarava broke the stand with Kamindu’s wicket after the batsman mistimed a shot to mid-on.
Shanaka kept up the attack to reach his hundred with a six off Chatara but got caught out at long off on the next ball and take back with him Sri Lanka’s hopes of victory.
“We need to have better plans next game. I don’t think there will be any pressure,” said Shanaka.
The deciding match is on Friday at the same venue.