Colombo: Sikandar Raza closed in on his maiden hundred and put Zimbabwe in sight of a first Test victory against Sri Lanka on the third day of their only match at the R Premadasa Stadium on Sunday.
The touring side, who also won their maiden One-day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka which finished last week, reached 252 for six in their second innings at the close of play for an overall lead of 262 runs.
The 31-year-old Raza was unbeaten on 97 for his highest test score and has added 107 for the unbroken seventh wicket with Malcolm Waller, who remained 57 not out.
Sri Lankan spin spearhead Rangana Herath (four for 85) had helped the hosts to reduce Zimbabwe to 59 for five at one stage but Raza and Peter Moor, who made 40, launched a fightback with a stand of 86 for the sixth wicket.
Earlier, Zimbabwe captain and leg-spinner Graeme Cremer (five for 125) took his maiden five-wicket haul to help his side to restrict Sri Lanka to 346 after the hosts had resumed on 293 for seven.
Sri Lanka have been hampered by a left hamstring injury to all-rounder Asela Gunaratne, who has been told he needs a recovery period of up to 10 days and will not bowl or field in the remainder of the ongoing Test.
Sri Lanka Zimbabwe 1st innings: 356
(C. Ervine 160; R. Herath 5-116)
Sri Lanka 1st innings
D. Karunaratne c H. Masakadza b Tiripano 25
Upul Tharanga run out 71
Kusal Mendis c Chakabva b Cremer 11
D. Chandimal c Chakabva b Cremer 55
A. Mathews c H. Masakadza b Williams 41
N. Dickwella b Cremer 6
Dilruwan Perera run out 33
A. Gunaratne b Cremer 45
R. Herath st Chakabva b Williams 22
Suranga Lakmal c&b Cremer 14
Lahiru Kumara (not out) 1
Extras (b-8, lb-10, nb-3, w-1) 22
Total (all out, 102.3 overs) 346
Fall of wickets: 1-84, 2-107, 3-116, 4-212, 5-226, 6-238, 7-274, 8-322, 9-343.
Bowling: C. Mpofu 11-2-41-0 (w-1); D. Tiripano 10-1-38-1; S. Raza 18-2-60-0; G. Cremer 39.3-4-125-5 (nb-1); M. Waller 1-0-2-0; S. Williams 23-3-62-2 (nb-2).
Zimbabwe 2nd innings
H. Masakadza lbw Herath 7
R. Chakabva b Herath 6
T. Musakanda c Karunaratne b Herath 0
C. Ervine c Karunaratne b D. Perera 5
S. Williams b Herath 22
S. Raza (not out) 97
P. Moor c sub b Kumara 40
M. Waller (not out) 57
Extras (b-4, lb-7, nb-1, w-6) 18
Total (6 wkts, 68 overs) 252
Fall of wickets: 1-14, 2-16, 3-17, 4-23, 5-59, 6-145.
To bat: G. Cremer, C. Mpofu, D. Tiripano
Bowling: Suranga Lakmal 9-0-28-0; Rangana Herath 23-2-85-4; Dilruwan Perera 21-1-69-1; Lahiru Kumara 11-3-43-1 (nb-1, w-2); Kusal Mendis 4-0-16-0.