Zimbabwe – 296-9 in 50 overs (Sean Williams 100, Regis Chakabva 72, Takudzwanashe Kaitano 42; Chamika Karunaratne 3/69, Jeffrey Vandersay 2/44, Nuwan Pradeep)
Sri Lanka – 300-5 in 48.4 overs (Pathum Nissanka 75, Dinesh Chandimal 75, Charith Asalanka 71; Richard Ngarava 3/56, Sikandar Raza 1/23, Blessing Muzarabani 1/58)
Sri Lanka won by five wickets
A brilliant century from Sean Williams was not enough to give Zimbabwe victory in the first one-day international against Sri Lanka at Pallekele on Sunday.
The home team overhauled the tourists’ score of almost 300 to win by five wickets with nine balls in hand.
Zimbabwe won the toss and decided to bat in this day-night match.
Takudzwanashe Kaitano, making his debut, opened the batting with Regis Chakabva, and was out of the blocks straight away, racing to 42 off 50 balls before he was out lbw to Jeffrey Vandersay.
The opening pair had given Zimbabwe a wonderful start with 80 runs in 15 overs.
The captain, Craig Ervine, playing his 100th ODI, did not last on the ground, being dismissed for nine.
But Williams was in superb form when he joined Chakabva.
They put on 50 together before Chakabva was out for a fine 72 off 81 balls, making the score 160 for three.
Wessly Madhevere scored 20 briskly, and then Sikandar Raza stayed in with Williams as the score mounted.
At 248 for four off 44 overs, there were high hopes of a 300 total for Zimbabwe, but at this point Raza was out for 18.
Williams continued to bat brilliantly, but his next three partners all came and went quickly as they tried in vain to hit out in the death overs.
Williams completed a century with Blessing Muzarabani as his partner, but with the first ball of the final over he was bowled by Chamika Karunaratne’s slower ball for exactly 100, with the total on 285.
His magnificent innings lasted 87 balls and he hit two sixes and nine fours.
Muzarabani went out the same way later in the over, but there was a surprise to come, as the last man, Richard Ngarava, hit the only two balls he faced for six and four to take the Zimbabwe total to 296 for nine wickets.
Karunaratne was the most successful bowler with three wickets, but they cost him 69 runs off 10 overs.
There were two wickets each for Nuwan Pradeep and Vandersay.
The Sri Lankan opening pair of Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis made an aggressive start to their reply, and 40 runs came in seven overs before Muzarabani broke through to have Mendis caught at the wicket by Chakabva for 26 off 24 balls.
Kamindu Mendis came in next, and scored 17 before being bowled by Ngarava with the score at 81.
Nissanka, batting well, took his score to 75 off 71 balls before being caught at the wicket off Raza at 147 for three in the 25th over, the halfway mark.
There followed the great partnership of the innings, as Charith Asalanka joined Chandimal and the pair put on 129 for the fourth wicket.
By the time Chandimal was caught off Ngarava for 75 off 91 balls in the 46th over, Sri Lanka had virtually won the game.
Ngarava struck again to send back Asalanka for 71 off 68 balls, but Dasun Shanaka and Chamika Karunaratne saw Sri Lanka home safely in the penultimate over.
The Sri Lankan batters had played a canny game, constantly keeping the score moving with placements of ones and twos rather than trying to bludgeon boundaries.
Ngarava had the best figures for Zimbabwe of three wickets for 56 off nine overs.
The spinners Wellington Masakadza, Williams and Raza were the only bowlers to go for less than six runs an over, but they could take only one wicket between them.