Sri Lanka – 254-9 in 50 overs (Pathum Nissanka 55, Charith Asalanka 52, Kusal Mendis 36; Richard Ngarava 2/46, Sean Williams 1/6, Ryan Burl 1/26)
Zimbabwe – 70 all out in 24.4 overs (Takudzwanashe Kaitano 19, Ryan Burl 15, Milton Shumba 9; Jeffrey Vandersay 4/10, Dushmantha Chameera 2/20, Ramesh Mendis 2/26)
Sri Lanka won by 184 runs
Zimbabwe, seeking a series win in the third one-day international at Pallekele on Friday, did very well to restrict Sri Lanka to a score of 254 for nine wickets, only to collapse under pressure in their innings to be bowled out for 70.
The home side won the toss and decided to bat first, with all their first eight batters getting enough of a start to reach double figures – two of them making fifties – but not one of them was able to play the major innings they needed.
Pathum Nissanka (55) and Kusal Mendis (36) opened the innings, and Zimbabwe appeared to be struggling as the pair put on 80 together before Mendis was caught off Wellington Masakadza in the 18th over.
This was the only stage of the innings that Sri Lanka were in control, as ever afterwards, whenever it seemed that a major partnership was developing, the Zimbabwe bowlers broke through.
Charith Asalanka looked to be the most dangerous of the middle-order batters, as he ran to 52 off 56 balls, but he could not take the bowling apart or find a lasting partner, and was caught off Tendai Chatara to make the score 193 for six in the 41st over.
That wicket saw Chatara setting a new Zimbabwe record for the fastest 100 wickets, as he achieved the historic feat in 76 matches.
The later batters tried hard to hit out, and no doubt Sri Lanka had wanted to score 300 at the very least, but they failed.
Chamika Karunaratne (30) and Ramesh Mendis (26) put on 48 in seven overs for the seventh wicket, but this was not the pace necessary in the death overs, and when they were separated three wickets fell quickly to leave the final total at 254 for nine.
The bowling was a fine team effort, with six bowlers all taking wickets, but Richard Ngarava was the only man to take two, for 46 runs.
The spinners, Masakadza and Ryan Burl, both went for less than five runs an over, and the only bowler to go for more than a run a ball was Blessing Muzarabani.
After such a brilliant job with the ball, the visitors would have fancied their chance of chasing down the target without much difficulty to win the match.
Unfortunately, it was the Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders who rose to the occasion rather than the Zimbabwe batters.
Dushmantha Chameera and Meheesh Theekshana opened the bowling with two fine overs, and Chameera’s second over began Zimbabwe’s doom.
Regis Chakabva (1) edged the second ball to slip and then the captain, Craig Ervine, edged his first delivery to the keeper, both excellent catches.
Sean Williams joined Takudzwanashe Kaitano and briefly a partnership looked like developing, until a superb spinning delivery from Theekshana bowled out Williams for six with the score 20.
Zimbabwe were already in an almost impossible situation, with three of their four most experienced batters already out.
At 30, Kaitano, who had batted very well in such a situation, was stumped in Vandersay’s first over for 19.
Sikandar Raza with his experience might have put up a good fight, but he drove a catch to cover to depart for one and Zimbabwe were 31 for five.
Burl found in Chatara a partner to fight it out with him and they put on 18 for the ninth wicket, the highest partnership of the innings.
Burl made 15, one of only two Zimbabwe batters to reach double figures, before he was out lbw to Vandersay, who needed only two more balls to remove the last man Ngarava.
Zimbabwe were all out for 70, going down by 184 runs.
Vandersay, who destroyed the middle order, took four wickets for 10 runs in 7.4 overs, while Chameera and Ramesh Mendis took two wickets each.
Theekshana played a vital part with 10 runs off six overs and the vital wicket of Williams.
With the victory, Sri Lanka clinched the series, which was part of the ICC Men’s World Cup Super League, by two matches to one.