Zimbabwe prised out three wickets in the second session on the second day in the one-off Test in Colombo on Saturday (July 15), but Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews nudged Sri Lanka to 184 for 3, a deficit of 172 runs, at tea.
Another unlucky run out early in the innings saw the back of opening batsman Upul Tharanga, who gave Sri Lanka a solid start with his brisk 71-run knock.
Ervine, who surpassed his previous Test best of 146, built crucial partnerships including a 84-run fifth-wicket stand with Sikandar Raza (36).
"If you take yesterday and today, the pitch is drier now than it was", Herath said as he explained the increased purchase for the spinners.
Tharanga fell short of his crease while backing up to a straight drive by Chandimal as the ball grazed past the fingers of paceman Donald Tiripano. Regis Chakabva behind the stumps took a clean catch. Veteran Ranag Herath bagged yet another five-wicket haul. But he departed when he attempted to sweep off Sean Williams where the top edged flew down to legs-side of the keeper.
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Herath's overnight batting partner Asela Gunaratne is struggling with a hamstring injury and his inability to bowl will be a blow for Sri Lanka as he picked up two wickets in the first innings.
Herath was the pick of the bowlers with four wickets, while Gunaratne snapped up two, and Perera and Lahiru Kumara claimed one wicket each.
Chandimal replaced Angelo Mathews as skipper after the all-rounder stepped down following a humiliating one-day worldwide series loss to Zimbabwe this week. After the visitors put up a competitive 356 on the first day, Sri Lanka came back strongly to post 293/7 on the second.
He faced 256 deliveries and hit 13 boundaries and a six for his second Test century.