Sri Lanka batsman Kusal Mendis frustrated Zimbabwe’s hopes of a series-levelling win at the Harare Sports Club Ground with a stubborn 116 not out as the second Test petered out to a draw on Friday.
Sri Lanka’s 10-wicket win in the first Test last week at the same venue meant it won the series 1-0.
Zimbabwe faced just one ball in the morning which captain Sean Williams hit for six to bring up his half-century. He immediately declared setting Sri Lanka a challenging target of 361.
The side lost the wickets of Dimuth Karunaratne, Oshada Fernando for 47 and Angelo Mathews but Mendis’ seventh Test century guided it through to the safety of a draw.
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His 116 came off 233 balls and included 13 fours and a six as Sri Lanka finished on 205 for three, still 156 runs short of victory.
“Zimbabwe showed a lot of character,” said Sri Lanka captain Karunaratne.
“It is hard to come back after losing the first Test but they played good cricket. We had to stay positive and bat the whole day.”
Rain and bad light had cut short Thursday’s play but Zimbabwe captain Sean Williams chose not to declare on its overnight 241 for seven.
Instead it batted on for one ball which Williams hit for six to reach 247 for seven before he declared. Williams, who made a fine 107 in the first innings and spent much of the time off the field sick, finished 53 not out.
He then chose to open the bowling with spinner Sikandar Raza whose seven for 113 in the first innings and scores of 72 and 34 earned him the player of the match award.
“Raza bowled exceptionally well,” said Williams.
“He gave us a chance. I am very proud of the way we played.”
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The pitch, however, looked a lot more benign and Raza failed to trouble the openers in his first seven-over spell.
The only wicket of the morning came at the other end when Karunaratne nibbled at a Carl Mumba delivery outside off-stump and edged through to wicketkeeper Donald Chakabva.
Fernando had only added a single to his lunchtime 46 when he fell leg before to Raza and Zimbabwe regained some hope just before tea when Mathews slapped a delivery from Victor Nyauchi straight to Craig Ervine at silly mid-on.
Mendis, however, dropped anchor and moved serenely to his seventh Test ton when he charged down the pitch to Raza and hit him back over his head for six.
“The wicket was much slower than the first Test,” said Mathews, who was named man of the series for the double century he scored in the first Test.
“We had to grind and grind. Kusal had to bat brilliantly to save the match.”
Mendis added 64 with Dinesh Chandimal, 13 not out from 75 balls, before Williams gave up the hunt.
Sri Lanka now hosts a white ball tour by the West Indies before England arrives for a two-Test series in March. Zimbabwe faces a one-off Test in Bangladesh and a series of white ball games.