Bulawayo: Sri Lanka capped a productive month of cricket in Zimbabwe by lifting the triangular series trophy on Sunday, beating the hosts by six wickets in the final.
Having comfortably beaten Zimbabwe in both Tests in Harare at the start of November, Sri Lanka added another trophy to their haul as half-centuries from captain Upul Tharanga and Kusal Mendis saw them chase a target of 161 with more than 12 overs to spare.
Although regular skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal missed the entire tour due to injury, Sri Lanka rarely felt their absence as they lost just one game in the process of clinching the tri-series, which also involved the West Indies.
“Full credit to the guys, everyone has done a really great job over the series,” said Tharanga.
“We have found some new players as well who have put their hands up and performed well.”
Zimbabwe pulled off a stunning comeback to beat the West Indies in their last round robin game and reach the final, but could not repeat the feat when their batsmen failed again on Sunday.
A reshuffle saw openers Brian Chari and Chamu Chibhabha both left out, with Peter Moor promoted to the top of the innings and Tarisai Musakanda given an international debut.
But on a drizzly morning, they still lost their openers inside the first five overs to slip to 19 for two.
Musakanda and Craig Ervine were able to revive the innings with a 53-run stand for the third wicket, only for Jeffrey Vandersay to end the resistance as he Ervine caught and bowled for 25, then had the debutant caught at slip for 36.
With Sachith Pathirana dismissing Sikandar Raza Butt and Malcolm Waller in the space of three overs, and Vandersay taking care of captain Graeme Cremer to record figures of 3 for 50, Zimbabwe slid to 133 for seven.
Zimbabwe had recovered from 89 for seven to post 218 for eight against the West Indies, but there was no such fightback on Sunday as Asela Gunaratne grabbed the final three wickets in the space of just four deliveries to end the innings inside 37 overs.
With a seemingly simple target in front of them, Sri Lanka’s top order were too hasty to knock it off and let Zimbabwe back into the match as a result.
Recalled to the Zimbabwe side for the first time since he was forced to remodel his action, left-arm seamer Brian Vitori dismissed Sri Lanka's top three to reduce them to 44 for three at the lunch interval.
But after the break, Tharanga and Mendis returned with a calmer mindset, and quietly batted Sri lanka into a position of dominance as they added 75 for the fourth wicket.
"We knew we only had to get one good partnership going," said Tharanga. "Mendis batted very well, and from there it got easier and easier."
Mendis fell for 57 with Sri Lanka requiring another 44 runs for victory, but captain Tharanga saw his side across the line to finish unbeaten on 57 and leave Zimbabwe wondering what could have been.
"To get to a final is always nice, but we were a bit disappointing today," said Zimbabwe captain Graeme Cremer. "We didn't think our day would end like this."