REUTERS - Sikandar Raza’s stellar all-round display guided Zimbabwe to their first one-day international series win over hosts Sri Lanka with a nervous three-wicket victory in the fifth and final match at Hambantota on Monday.
Zimbabwe’s first major one-day series win overseas since 2001 also jeopardised Sri Lanka’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup.
The touring side, ranked 11th in the International Cricket Council’s ODI rankings, restricted the hosts to 203-8 after winning the toss.
Off-spinner Raza opened the bowling for Zimbabwe and finished with his best bowling figures of 3-21.
Zimbabwe appeared to be cruising towards a famous victory after an opening partnership of 92 between Hamilton Masakadza (73) and Solomon Mire (43).
But they collapsed and lost six wickets for 38 runs to be reduced to 175-7 with Sri Lanka off-spinner Akila Dananjaya doing most of the damage with 4-47.
Raza, who made a run-a-ball 27, and captain Graeme Cremer (11 not out) then combined for an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 29 to take the African side home.
“Happy that Sikandar came to the party. It turned around very quickly but happy we pulled it off in the end,” Cremer said.
“This win is very special, Fans must be jumping around back home. We knew we’re playing good enough cricket to put them under pressure.”
Zimbabwe had never beaten Sri Lanka in an ODI in Sri Lanka and came to the island country having lost to Scotland last month and a series to Afghanistan.
Sri Lanka, the 1996 50-over world champions, compounded their problems with the series loss, leaving the door open for West Indies to pip them in the race for automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales.
The top eight ranked sides, including hosts England, will qualify directly with the rest having to go through a qualification tournament to make up the 10-team event.
Sri Lanka are ranked eighth and will host India for a five-match series while West Indies, ranked a place below, play the same number of matches against England before the cutoff date of Sept. 30.
Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ed Osmond