About the Match
The ODI series will now shift to Hambantota for the remaining matches with Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe locked at 1-1 against each other. Sri Lanka struck back strongly after the shock defeat they suffered in the first game and be keen to build on those gains while Zimbabwe can be expected to come up with a better strategy against the spinners.
A dominant bowling performance from Sri Lanka in the second match all but sealed Zimbabwe’s fate before a nervy batting performance finished off the job. The major difference between the first match and this one was the fact that Sri Lanka was able to take wickets in the middle of the innings.
Lakshan Sandakan is the bowler that made it happen as he picked up 4 wickets on his return to the ODI side. The left-arm spinner is not the most consistent spinner going around but his ability to pick wickets makes him invaluable. He might find the going a little bit tougher in this match now that Zimbabwe would have had some time to figure him out.
It will also be interesting to see how Hasaranga goes in his second match after picking up a hat-trick in the first match. He did not bowl to the higher order batsmen but was impressive in polishing off the lower order with speed.
Sri Lanka, however, has quite a few weaknesses that it needs to address still.
Fielding is a massive problem for this Sri Lankan team with catches being dropped in almost every match that they play. It cost them a place in the Champions Trophy playoffs and the first match. Another loss in this series and some heads are going to roll.
The Sri Lankan batting is probably their strongest suit right now with Kusal Mendis leading the charge. He fell for a first ball duck in the last match and could be in line for a big score. Tharanga too has shown excellent form so far and contributed with two valuable half-centuries in the two matches played.
If there is one thing that would be on the visitors' mind then it would be the sweep. All of their top-order batsmen are pretty adept at playing spin and they do that through a liberal use of the sweep shot, both conventional and reverse.
This tactic worked for them in the first game but backfired spectacularly in the second.
Captain, Graeme Cremer would hope his batsmen can take a ‘middle of the road’ approach the third time around otherwise risk another collapse in this match.
It is quite clear that Zimbabwe’s batsmen need to fire if they are to compete in this series. The Zimbabwe bowlers are tidy but mostly non-threatening and need the buffer of a good score behind them.
Tendai Chatara has been the only bowler that has got some early wickets but we really think its time Chris Mpofu gets his place back in the team ahead of the underwhelming Tripano.
We also think that Sean Williams and Craig Ervine will come up with better plans for the spinners and be able to manipulate them better.
Pitch and Conditions
The current forecast in Hambantota is good for cricket with only a slight chance of rain. That being said, rain is never too far away in these parts and a trickle can turn into a deluge very quickly. The last match played here was about 2 years ago and the pitch may have changed character since then.
In the past, it has offered some good bounce and pace to the batsmen, something that the Zimbabwe players would love to have.
Sri Lanka once again has the upper hand going into this match, although, we have a feeling that Zimbabwe could spring a surprise once again.
We think this is a good opportunity to back the underdog. Back Zimbabwe to win.