Inspired by Rustom Deboo’s throwback to the 2000 Asia Cup, I wanted to look back on a more recent edition of the tournament.
Sri Lanka’s World Test Championship campaign got off to a positive start on August 18, as they beat New Zealand by six wickets in the first Test at Galle.
Thanks to captain Dimuth Karunaratne’s determined knock of 122, the islanders chased down 268 to win the match, thus completing their fifth highest successful Test chase. On that note, here is a look at Sri Lanka’s five highest successful chases in Test cricket.
6/391 (target 388) vs Zimbabwe, only Test, Colombo (RPS), 2017
Craig Ervine’s 160 took Zimbabwe to 356, to which Sri Lanka replied with 346. Zimbabwe crashed to 5/59 in the second innings, but a rearguard effort led by Sikandar Raza (127) ballooned the total to 377, ensuring a stiff target of 391 for the hosts. At the end of the fourth day, Sri Lanka were 3/170, with Kusal Mendis on 60*.
Mendis was out for 66 early on the final morning, and when Angelo Mathews fell soon after, Sri Lanka were placed at a wobbly 5/203. Asela Gunaratne (80*) joined Niroshan Dickwella (81) at this stage, and the duo turned the tide with a stand of 121. Gunaratne added another 67* for the seventh wicket with Dilruwan Perera, who hit the winning four to seal Sri Lanka’s win in the second session.
9/352 (target 352) vs South Africa, second Test, Colombo (PSS), 2006
Sri Lanka allowed South Africa to recover from 4/70 to 361, before themselves staging a comeback to improve from a perilous 5/86 to 321, with the revival coming through Chamara Kapugedera (63), Farveez Maharoof (56) and Chaminda Vaas (64). Although the irrepressible Muttiah Muralitharan snared 7/97 to add to his 5/128 in the first dig, Sri Lanka needed to chase down 352 if they were to win the series.
Sanath Jayasuriya provided the early impetus with a blazing 73 off 74 balls, before captain Mahela Jayawardene constructed a fine century, on the way adding 78 for the sixth wicket with Prasanna Jayawardene. He was seventh out for 123 while the team was on 341, after which two more wickets fell for nine runs to raise the tension.
In a nail-biting finish, Lasith Malinga hit the single that secured a one-wicket win for the Lions.
5/326 (target 325) vs Zimbabwe, second Test, Colombo (SSC), 1997-98
Leading the three-match series 1-0, Sri Lanka ceded a first-innings lead of 26 after being bowled out for 225 in response to Zimbabwe’s 251. Andy Flower’s unbeaten 105 in the second innings built on the lead, as he lifted Zimbabwe from 5/128 to 299. Sri Lanka thus needed 326 to win, and the start to their chase was far from ideal.
Marvan Atapattu and Roshan Mahanama fell for ducks as the score slipped to 2/10, before Aravinda de Silva joined Jayasuriya (68) for a third-wicket stand of 105. Two more wickets saw the score falter to 5/137, and Zimbabwe had their tails up. However, De Silva (143*) found a willing ally in captain Arjuna Ranatunga (87*). The experienced pair went on to add 189* to deliver a five-wicket win for their team.
9/304 (target 304) vs South Africa, first Test, Durban, 2018-19
Sri Lanka’s pacers impressed by limiting South Africa to 235, but lack of a substantial partnership saw them trail by 44 on the first innings. In the second innings, left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando (who had taken 4/71 in the first innings) collected 4/62, while debutant left-arm spinner Lasith Embuldeniya returned 5/66, as South Africa lost their last five wickets for eight runs to get bowled out for 259.
Chasing 304, Sri Lanka were 3/52 when Kusal Perera, who had top-scored in the first innings with 51, walked out. The southpaw added 58 for the fourth wicket with Oshada Fernando, another debutant, before the score was reduced to 5/110. Perera kept going though, and put on 96 for the sixth wicket with Dhananjaya de Silva (48). De Silva’s loss led to a slide, and at 9/226, a Proteas win looked inevitable.
But Perera, who was on 86 at this point, had other ideas. With Vishwa Fernando for company, he achieved the unthinkable: in one of the greatest batting displays of all time, Perera proceeded to hit 153* from 200 balls.
The last wicket raised 78 unbeaten runs – a Test record – of which Fernando contributed six. Perera hit Kagiso Rabada for four across the third-man boundary to pull off arguably the most incredible Test chase.
4/268 (target 268) vs New Zealand, first Test, Galle, 2019
The off spin of Akila Dananjaya (5/80) and the pace of Suranga Lakmal (4/29) combined to bowl New Zealand out for 249, after which Mendis (53) and Mathews (50) steered Sri Lanka to a sturdy position of 2/143. Mendis’ dismissal triggered a collapse to 7/161, before Dickwella (61) engineered a late recovery towards 267.
Having given their opponents a lead of 18, New Zealand struggled to 6/124 against spin, before BJ Watling’s gutsy 77 carried the total to 285.
Openers Karunaratne and Lahiru Thirimanne (64) began Sri Lanka’s chase of 268 in a confident manner, stitching together a stand of 161 that deflated the Black Caps. The left-handed Karunaratne (122) led from the front, paving the way for his side’s six-wicket win.