An unbeaten 92 from Angelo Mathews, as well as 80 from Kusal Mendis, put Sri Lanka in a strong position in the first Test against Zimbabwe as they closed day three on 295/4.
With the visitors resuming on 42/1, captain Dimuth Karunaratne and Kusal Mendis set about laying the foundation for their side's reply to Zimbabwe's first dig of 358. With the partnership building steadily though, one of the host's three debutants made the breakthrough, Victor Nyauchi claiming the skipper's wicket for 37.
It took nearly another 40 overs for the next wicket to fall, with Angelo Mathews joining Mendis to double the score in the meantime. Mendis had a nervy lunch, with his score sitting on 43 over the interval, but he completed it without alarm. There was some cause for concern from the fielding side, however, as another of their debutants, Kevin Kasuza, was struck flush on the helmet at short leg by a pull shot.
Mendis was unable to push on to what would have been his seventh Test century, falling for 80 as Nyauchi claimed his second wicket thanks to an edge to slip. But Mathews was not concerned with consolidating as he looked to play with positivity against the spinners. He clobbered first Ainsley Ndlovu and then Sean Williams for six apiece, bringing up his own half-century the over before tea between the two shots.
Dinesh Chandimal was next to fall, in slightly bizarre fashion, as he bottom edged a quick, full ball from Williams on to his own boot, lobbing a catch back to the bowler for 11. Mathews battled on with Zimbabwe opting to continue with the old ball past the 80-over mark, with captain Williams perhaps seeking control over penetration. When the new ball was taken, however, after 88 overs, it changed little in the complexion of the game. Mathews continued sedately as he had done since arriving at the crease, while Dhananjaya de Silva slowed slightly after a quickfire start to his innings but still scored quickly enough to prevent Zimbabwe taking control.
By the close the pair had taken their partnership to 68 in just over 24 overs, with both batsmen ending the day within touching distance of a milestone, with de Silva on 42 and Mathews on 92 from 253 balls. Both will resume in the morning as Sri Lanka look to go past Zimbabwe's total and build a match-defining first-innings lead.
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