Openers Dimuth Karunaratne and Upul Tharanga helped Sri Lanka reach 56-0 at tea on Monday after the hosts were set a record 388 to win the one-off Test against Zimbabwe.
Karunaratne (29) and Tharanga (27) took the attack to the opposition bowlers as Zimbabwe unleashed an all-spin assault on the fourth day of the match at the R. Premadasa stadium in Colombo.
Sri Lanka’s highest-ever successful run chase was against South Africa when they achieved their 352-run target in the 2006 Colombo Test.
The hosts, who suffered a shock defeat in the preceding one-day series against the minnows, still require another 332 to win with all their wickets intact.
Zimbabwe were earlier bowled out for 377 in the second session with Sikandar Raza (127) top-scoring for the visitors with his maiden Test century.
Skipper Graeme Cremer was the last man out for 48 off left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who returned figures of 6-133 to take his match tally to 11 wickets.
The Pakistan-born Raza steered the team’s middle and lower-order to help his side accumulate 318 runs after being reduced to 59-5 on day three.
Raza’s 144-run partnership with Malcolm Waller (68) was the highlight of the Zimbabwe innings after the duo resumed play on the team’s overnight score of 252-6.
Zimbabwe are seeking their first-ever Test win against Sri Lanka, who are looking for redemption under new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal.
Chandimal took over from Angelo Mathews who resigned after calling the one-day series loss a “hard pill to swallow”.