Pakistans six-wicket win with more than 10 overs remaining all but knocked Sri Lanka out of the Asia Cup,but the match was not as straight forward as the result would suggest.
Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal were setting about rebuilding the chase,which had threatened to fall apart when they had come together at 33 for three. The partership had added 22 runs,but were knocking singles around and Sri Lanka were defending just 188 runs. Mahela Jayawardene,knowing his sides Asia Cup hopes were on the line,recalled his strike bowler Lasith Malinga.
Akmal welcomed Malinga by hitting three boundaries in four balls. The first was a crunching cover drive and the next ball was crashed past short cover for the same result. The fourth ball of the over was whipped behind square leg,bisecting the two fielders in the deep and Malinga was restricted to just one over in his second spell.
Akmal,who had had a quiet start to the innings,settled down after the blitz,going without a boundary for another six overs. When he did go for it,a four and a six came off successive balls against Prasanna Sekkuge. His next boundary came only after seven overs. The 21-year-old attacking batsmen owns an array of attacking strokes but often,a promising innings has ended in a rush of blood. Akmals innings on Thursday,however,interspersed his manic hitting with enough spells of calm and sensiblity,borrowed from his skipper at the other end perhaps,to put paid to Lanka.
It wasnt an error-free innings from Akmal though. A mistimed pulled on 46 was grassed by Lahiru Thirimanne in the deep with Pakistan were still 61 runs away. Akmal,however,made the most of his second life,playing anchor,agressor and finisher. When he was dismissed on 77 off 72 balls,Pakistan needed just four runs for victory.
Earlier,Sri Lanka started briskly but Pakistans pacemen struck quick blows to reduce the side to 65 for four. Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Upul Tharanga (57) revived the innings midway through,before Aizaz Cheema (four for 43) and Saeed Ajmal (three for 27) triggered a collapse that saw Sri Lanka implode to lose six wickets for 27 runs,to finish with a below par score.
Sri Lanka: M Jayawardene c M Hafeez b Aizaz Cheema 12,T Dilshan c S Ajmal b A Cheema 20,K Sangakkara b A Cheema 71,D Chandimal c Y Khan b U Gul 0,L Thirimanne c U Akmal b H Azam 7,U Tharanga b S Ajmal 57,F Maharoof c Misbah-ul-Haq b S Ajmal 2,N Kulasekara c S Ahmed b U Gul 4,S Prasanna not out 5,L Malinga b A Cheema 1,S Lakmal c N Jamshed b S Ajmal 0,Extras: (lb 5,w 4) 9; Total (all out in 45.4 ovs) 188. FoW:1-33,2-43,3-47,4-65,5-161,6-165,7-172,8-182,9-187,10-188.
Pakistan: U Gul 8-1-20-2,A Cheema 9-0-43-4,M Hafeez 10-0-40-0,H Azam 4-0-21-1,S Ajmal 8.4-1-27-3,S Afridi 6-0-32-0
Pakistan: M Hafeez c Chandimal b Prasanna 11, N Jamshed c Tharanga b Lakmal 18, Y Khan c Maharoof b Lakmal 2, Misbah-ul-Haq not out 72, U Akmal c Tharanga c Maharoof 77, Hammad Azam not out 4; Extras (lb-1 w-2 nb-2) 5; Total (for four wickets; 39.5 overs) 189; FoW: 1-29 2-31 3-33 4-185; Bowling: L Malinga 8-1-44-0,N. Kulasekara 7-2-22-0,S Lakmal 8-1-37-2 (2 nb),S Prasanna 7.5-1-49-1,F Maharoof 7-0-23-1(2 w),T Dilshan 2-0-13-0