Though the visitors bowled with more discipline than they had in the morning session, the current, and former Sri Lanka captains came together and added 68 runs, Chandimal on 44 not out and Mathews on 16.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne fell just one run short of half-century as he struck a 49-run knock besides sharing a 58-run stand with Upul Tharanga (27) to provide his side with an initial thrust in the second innings. At stumps on fourth day, Mathews remained unbeaten on 17 with Mendis on 60, building an unbeaten 37-run partnership.
On day two Sri Lanka wrapped up the tail cheaply and started well with the bat only to implode with Graeme Cremer bowling well and Sri Lanka suffering from some poor decisions. "If that happens, I don't think it's easy to get them out unless we do something silly". Zimbabwe led by Graeme Cremer will have an opportunity to register their first win over Sri Lanka in the game's longest format.
Sikandar Raza led the way with a career-best innings as Zimbabwe produced a superb lower-middle-order recovery to forge a position of unexpected strength on day three of their sole Test with Sri Lanka in Colombo on Sunday.
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.
Zimbabwe are seeking their first-ever Test win against Sri Lanka, who are looking for redemption under new Test captain Dinesh Chandimal.
Cremer took the wickets of Kusal Mendis (11), Dinesh Chandimal (55) and Niroshan Dickwella (6) to finish the day with 3-100.
Raza lifted Zimbabwe from a precarious 23-4, followed by 59-5, after Sri Lankan left-arm spinner Rangana Herath rattled the visitors' batting with four early wickets. His wicket ended a 144-run seventh-wicket stand.
Raza was the star of the show, though, keeping his composure after spending overnight on 97 not out and quickly securing a first Test ton with the second ball of the day.