It is the Zimbabwe’s tour of Sri Lanka. One day is cricket is finally back after 17 long years to one of the most scenic grounds in the world. With the Indian Ocean on both the sides and the iconic Galle Fort with the clock tower towering above the Galle International Stadium; there was a decent turnout for the 1st One-day International of the five-match series.
By the 30th over in the second innings, Zimbabwe was well on course trying to chase down a sumptuous 316, posted by Sri Lanka earlier in the day. Zimbabwe’s opening batsman Solomon Mire batting who was on 96, played a bludgeoning on-drive and the ball screamed past the long-on fence for four. Mire had scored his maiden ODI hundred. The innings that mattered the most as Zimbabwe became the first side ever over a span of 296 ODI games to chase down a 300 plus score in Sri Lanka.
Zimbabwe had decided to play in almost too many batting all-rounders which meant that Mire ended up bowling 7 overs including the death overs. He went for close to seven runs per over and picked a wicket in his kitty. But it was the impact he had in the innings that shell-shocked the hosts. Mire’s first boundary came in just the second over off a missed field from Lasith Malinga at third man. As it turned out Sri Lanka’s lackluster fielding was Mire’s best ally in his match-winning innings.
Even after the boundary, Mire looked scratchy to begin with. Especially while trying to sweep the off-spinner Akila Dananjaya. The first incident was a late shout for stumping which looked less complicated in the replays; Mire had grounded his back leg and was safe. The second one was much tighter though. This time he had missed the sweep shot and the ball had lobbed to the forward short-leg fielder. When the decision was reviewed upstairs it looked very close but wasn’t convincing enough to turn over the Umpire’s soft signal that was not-out and the batsman survived. In the same over while attempting a similar shot, there was another appeal for LBW, the umpire ruled that again in favor of the Mire.
In the very next over of the off-spinner, Mire’s partner Craig Ervine got out caught right at the throat of deep backward square-leg when all he managed was a top edge trying to sweep. With so many failed attempts to sweep, one would have that thought that Mire would stop playing that shot or at least hesitate in doing so. But this is a modern batsman we are talking about. They stick to their plans no matter what. And as the innings went on, it was the sweep shot that got Mire most of his runs; 34 in total that included the reverse sweeps as well.
Solomon Mire was born in Harare. His previous first-class best was 94 against Southerners in the Faithwear Inter-Provincial One-Day Competition in 2006-7. In the same tournament, he had scored a 79 and an unbeaten 52 which was the first time the cricketing circuit in Zimbabwe noticed this big-hitting right-hander. Then came the lean phase in his career which actually went on for a while until the year 2012 when he moved to Australia. Playing the Premier Cricket in Melbourne, he played for Carlton and Essendon. In July 2014, he had smashed a 157 ball 260 that featured for Essendon in the Victoria Cricket Association Premiership. It was just a matter of time that he had his national call-up. Mire took the opportunity with both hands. He registered two fifty-plus scores in his first five matches against Bangladesh in foreign conditions that also booked a birth in the 2015 World Cup squad.
For someone who has played a lot of cricket in Australia Mire was severe on the short ball. Sri Lankan bowlers kept banging it shot and Mire played the pull and hook shot with a lot of authority. Mire’s aggressive run-scoring allowed his partner Sean William ease into the innings. Both batted with an exceptional amount of maturity and stitched a game-changing partnership of 153 runs for the third wicket. Mire eventually got out when he gave a gentle return catch to the bowler, Asela Gunaratne who also dismissed Williams after he had scored 65. Zimbabwe still needed close to 100 runs and it was Sikander Raza (67*) and Malcolm Waller (40*) who cruised passed the target with 14 balls remaining.
In the post match interview, Sikander Raza said that when he was batting in the middle all he reminded himself that he had to get these runs for Solomon Mire for his outstanding effort more so for Zimbabwe. Mire’s 96 balls 112 not only played a significant role in registering Zimbabwe’s first ever victory on the Sri Lankan soil across all formats but also has got this series wide open.
Written by Babasish Nanda