Sri Lanka could have taken the confidence with a commanding victory over Zimbabwe to register their first win of the tri-series, but ChandikaHathurusingha's charges went on to lose five wickets and had to bat till the 45th over to chase down the small 199-run target at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur yesterday.
Perhaps it was at the back of their minds that a defeat would see the Lankans crash out of the tournament and it forced them to play safe instead of sending a strong message to the opposition with a bonus point.
Player-of-the-match ThisaraPerera capped a brilliant all-round show by smacking the winning six off Tendai Chatara in the fifth ball of the 45th over, after having taken four wickets for 33 runs from his eight overs in the afternoon.
Sri Lanka stumbled early in the chase of a small target when opener Upul Tharanga played on to the stumps off the bowling of Chatara to walk back for 17. The left-handed KusalPerera and right-handed KusalMendis then added 70 runs for the second wicket and it looked like the batting side were going to cruise to the victory with ease. But tall pacer Blessing Muzarabani picked up three wickets in the span of 14 runs as Sri Lanka lurched to 117 for four inside 26 overs.
The right-arm pacer first had KusalPereraedging behind one short of his fifty to substitute wicket-keeper Ryan Murray, who was substituting for Brendan Taylor after the regular keeper opted not to take the gloves because of back pain.That was followed by the departure of a struggling KusalMendisfor 36 when he exposed his leg stump and paid the price.
NiroshanDickwella was Muzarabani'sthird victim after scoring seven and when AselaGunaratne was caught behind off pacer Kyle Jarvis cheaply, Sri Lanka required another 54 to win with five wickets in hand.
Skipper Dinesh Chandimal, however, held the ship together and remained unbeaten on a 71-ball 38 with two fours alongside Perera, who was not out on 39 off 26 balls, which featured three sixes and a four to take the side across the line.
Earlier, despite a cautious start from openers Hamilton Masakadza and Solomon Mire, who added 44 runs after electing to bat, Zimbabwe faced some terrific bowling from Perera who picked up three wickets in successive overs.
The seamer first removed Masakadza when he handed a simple catch to midwicket going for a pull. Thisara then picked up Craig Ervine on two when he edged to slip to continue his poor run.
Perera used the short delivery to great effect, surprising Mire with a quick bouncer which the batsman only managed to edgeto the wicketkeeper after scoring 21.
Things got worse for the batting side as they lost the in-form Sikandar Raza on nine when he was caught brilliantly by KusalMendis at short square leg off the bowling of left-arm chinamanbowler Lakshan Sandakan as Zimbabwe fell to 73 for four inside 17 overs.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Brendan Taylor finally rediscovered his touch after the disappointments of the previous two gamesand was the only hope for the batting side as he reached his fifty.
But it was Perera again with his short ball that undid the right-hander as he was caught at long leg after scoring 58 off 80 balls with six fours. Skipper Graeme Cremer (34) tried to accelerate at the end before pacer Nuwan Pradeep picked up the last three Zimbabwean wickets for just seven runs to deny the batting side passage past the 200-run mark.