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Series off to thriller as Pakistan win with a ball to spare

Maqsood made an unbeaten 89 off 73 balls and Alam scored 62 off 61 as Pakistan raced to 277/6 after Sri Lanka had posted a decent 275/7.

Pakistan's Shoaib Maqsood(Right) celebrates with team mate Shahis Afridi Pakistan’s Sohaib Maqsood(Right) celebrates with team mate Shahid Afridi after their victory against Sri Lanka on Saturday in Hambantota. (Source: Reuters)

Sohaib Maqsood and Fawad Alam shared a record-breaking partnership as they powered Pakistan to a four-wicket victory against Sri Lanka with one ball to spare in the first one-day international on Saturday. Maqsood made an unbeaten 89 off 73 balls and Alam scored 62 off 61 as Pakistan raced to 277/6 after Sri Lanka had posted a decent 275/7.

The young batting pair rebounded their team from a struggling 106/5 with an entertaining 147-run stand off 117 balls — Pakistan’s highest ever sixth wicket partnership in ODIs. Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews (89) and Mahela Jayawardene (63) earlier anchored the home team in a match reduced to 45 overs a side due to rain. The second ODI is at the same ground on Tuesday after Sri Lanka Cricket shifted it due to heavy rains in Colombo.

Maqsood, who made his international debut in November last year, and Alam were unfazed with twin strikes from Thisara Perera (2/43) and captain Angelo Mathews (2/48). Alam rotated the strike frequently and gave enough opportunity to Maqsood to play attacking shots in the last 10 overs with Pakistan needing 90. Sri Lanka had its moments but Kumar Sangakkara, who took a brilliant down the leg side catch to dismiss Misbah-ul-Haq (13) off Rangana Herath, missed a stumping chance when Maqsood was on 32.

Crisp hitting

Maqsood hit nine boundaries that included some crisp straight drives to surpass his previous best of 73 — also made against Sri Lanka in Sharjah in December 2013. Alam departed after hitting seven boundaries when Lasith Malinga found a leading edge off the left-hander to the third man with Pakistan needing 22 runs off the last three overs.

Shahid Afridi (14 not out), who became Pakistan’s most capped ODI player with 379 matches, hit the winning boundary by cutting Nuwan Kulasekara to point boundary. Earlier after being put in to bat, Mathews smashed a career-best 89 off 85 balls with nine fours and two sixes while Jayawardene, who quit test cricket after Sri Lanka swept Pakistan 2-0 in the test series earlier this week, made 63 off 66 balls. The pair revived Sri Lanka’s innings by combining for a 116-run fifth-wicket stand.

Ashan Priyanjan gave the innings an impetus with his late, quickfire 39 off just 15 balls with eight boundaries as Pakistan conceded 105 runs in the last 10 overs. Fast bowler Wahab Riaz picked up 3/50 and tall paceman Mohammad Irfan finished with 2/48 in his comeback match after 10 months due to hip injury. Jayawardene reached a milestone when he became the fifth leading run-scorer in one-day internationals by driving Riaz through covers for his eighth boundary to surpass Pakistan’s Inzamam-ul-Haq (11,739).

Pakistan struggled to contain Mathews and Jayawardene in the absence of its ace offspinner Saeed Ajmal, who is travelling to Australia to undergo tests on his suspect bowling action. Jayawardene departed in the 38th over when he was run out by a direct throw from wicketkeeper Umar Akmal, but Mathews kept the momentum going until his off stump was toppled by Riaz in the penultimate over.

Priyanjan ensured Sri Lanka posted a challenging total when he smashed six of his eight boundaries against Junaid Khan (0-75). But in the end the total proved not enough for the home team.

Brief scores: Pakistan 277/6 in 44.5 overs (S Maqsood 89 n.o, F Alam 62; T Perera 2/43, A Mathews 2/48) bt Sri Lanka 275/7 in 45 overs (A Mathews 89, M Jayawardene 63; W Riaz 3/50, M Irfan 2/48) by 4 wickets.

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