Colombo: Kusal Mendis scored a fluent half-century to keep Sri Lanka’s hopes of chasing a record 388 alive on day four of the one-off Test against Zimbabwe on Monday.
The hosts were 170 for three at stumps, with Mendis (60) batting alongside Angelo Mathews (17) at Colombo’s R. Premadasa Stadium.
Sri Lanka’s highest-ever successful run chase was against South Africa in 2006, when they achieved their 352-run target in Colombo.
Zimbabwe skipper Graeme Cremer dented the hosts with his leg spin, claiming the important wickets of Upul Tharanga (27) and his opposite number Dinesh Chandimal (15).
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne was bowled by left-arm orthodox spinner Sean Williams for 49 as the visitors persisted with an all-spin attack in the 48 overs bowled in the innings so far.
Mendis, who fought off hamstring trouble in the final session of play, put together an unbeaten 37-run stand with Mathews to take the delicately poised Test into its final day.
Zimbabwe were earlier bowled out for 377 in the second session, with Sikandar Raza (127) top-scoring for the visitors with his maiden Test century.
Cremer was the last man out for 48 off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who returned figures of 6-133 to take his match tally to 11 wickets.
The Pakistan-born Raza steered the team’s middle and lower order to help his side accumulate another 318 runs after being reduced to 59-5 on day three.
Raza’s 144-run partnership with Malcolm Waller (68) was the highlight of the Zimbabwe innings after the duo resumed on the overnight score of 252-6.
Zimbabwe are seeking their first-ever Test win against Sri Lanka, who are looking for redemption under new Test captain Chandimal.
He took over from Mathews, who resigned after calling the one-day series loss a “hard pill to swallow”.
Zimbabwe (1st innings) 356
Sri Lanka (1st innings) 346
Zimbabwe (2nd innings)
S. Raza b Herath 127
M. Waller c Tharanga b Perera 68
G. Cremer c Karunaratne b Herath 48
D. Tiripano lbw b Perera 19
C. Mpofu not out 9
Extras (b4, lb14, w7, nb1) 26
Total (all out; 107.1 overs) 377
Fall of wickets: 1-14 (Chakabva), 2-16 (Musakanda), 3-17 (Masakadza), 4-23 (Ervine), 5-59 (Williams), 6-145 (Moor), 7-289 (Waller), 8-306 (Raza), 9-361 (Tiripano), 10-377 (Cremer)
Bowling: Lakmal 14-0-43-0; Herath 39.1-5-133-6; Perera 30-2-95-3; L. Kumara 20-3-72-1 (nb1, w3); K. Mendis 4-0-16-0
Sri Lanka (2nd innings)
D. Karunaratne b Williams 49
U. Tharanga c Moor b Cremer 27
K. Mendis not out 60
D. Chandimal c Masakadza b Cremer 15
A. Mathews not out 17
Extras (lb2) 2
Total (3 wickets; 48 overs) 170
Fall of wickets: 1-58 (Tharanga), 2-108 (Karunaratne), 3-133 (Chandimal)
Bowling: Raza 9-1-29-0; Williams 16-0-62-1; Cremer 19-0-67-2; Waller 4-0-10-0
Umpires: Ian Gould (ENG), Nigel Llong (ENG)
TV umpire: Chettithody Shamshuddin (IND)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)