Colombo: Pakistan have been abysmal chasers in recent years in ODI cricket. Three hours of accumulation offered hope that tonight wouldn`t end in another failed pursuit. And then, as if all the accumulation had stretched their patience too taut, the dam broke. From 166 for 2 chasing 244, Pakistan disintegrated to 179 for 9.
In less than four overs. Thisara Perera followed up his 6 for 44 in the second ODI with a hat-trick. Pakistan registered six ducks, and their 15th defeat in 18 chases of 240-plus in the last three years.
In the end, the match was decided in the two batting Powerplays, with Sri Lanka surging in both. A cramping Azhar Ali, who became the first player to carry his bat in ODIs in more than a decade, and Misbah-ul-Haq had put on 113 for the third wicket, leaving Pakistan with 78 to get from 76 deliveries. In the 37th over, the second of the batting Powerplay, Misbah refused a tight single with Ali having run more than half way up the pitch. The effort required to get back worsened Ali`s cramp, making it harder for him to accelerate, like Kumar Sangakkara had earlier after a similar slow fifty.
Three balls later, Misbah departed for an efficient 57, with Nuwan Kulasekara taking a sharp low catch at mid-off off Lasith Malinga`s bowling. Umar Gul had put down a much easier chance at long-on off Sangakkara, who went on to add 62 off 48. Malinga stepped it up after Misbah`s departure, pegging Umar Akmal back with three successive sharp bouncers. Akmal drove at and edged his fourth, off Kulasekara, to the wicketkeeper.
The fight had gone out of Pakistan. Younis Khan, held back till No. 6, edged a rising Perera delivery to the keeper. Shahid Afridi either explodes or implodes. He did the latter, punching his first ball to extra cover. Sarfraz Ahmed obliged Perera with the hat-trick, guiding him to slip. The persevering Ali was reduced to a spectator, all his hard work undone in minutes of chaos.
Like Sri Lanka, Pakistan hadn`t found run-scoring easy in the first half of their chase, but Ali and Misbah kept the visitors going, taking their team to 100 four overs earlier than Sri Lanka had.
Pakistan`s top order continued its wobbly ways when Mohammad Hafeez collected his fifth duck in his last 12 international innings, pulling his fifth delivery from Malinga to long leg. Kulasekara kept Ali and Asad Shafiq under pressure with a probing opening spell of five overs for just 16 runs.
Still, like Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan had for Sri Lanka, Ali and Shafiq ensured Pakistan weren`t bogged down completely. It was the left-arm spinner Sajeewa Weerakoon, bowling for the first time in international cricket in his second ODI, who got the breakthrough with his 10th delivery, trapping Shafiq in front on 25 with a slider. The combination of Ali and Misbah was never going to blaze away, but it made sure the asking-rate stayed below six, and under control, finding the boundary just when required. Little did they know of the pandemonium that was to ensue.
Not remotely on the same scale, but Pakistan had fallen apart in the field too after being disciplined for more than three-fifths of Sri Lanka`s innings. Gul dropped Sangakkara off Afridi, when on 35 off 82 deliveries. Then came the batting Powerplay. Sangakkara carted 62 off his last 48 deliveries, and Sri Lanka reached the kind of total Pakistan have struggled to chase in recent years.
Till Sangakkara was put down in the 31st over, Sri Lanka had been tied down, first by Pakistan`s fast bowlers, and then by their spinners. Sangakkara and Dilshan did add 55 for the second wicket, but they were hard-earned runs, and Dilshan`s departure immediately after the first drinks break meant Sri Lanka had to continue with their cautious approach. The absence of scoring opportunities consumed Dinesh Chandimal as well, after which the expected rain came down to force a 70-minute break.
Pakistan`s spinners continued with the run-squeeze after the rain interruption. The next few overs were quiet, but Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene took complete charge in the batting Powerplay, which went for 49. Gul, who was feeling some pain in his right index finger, was to suffer the most. He had given just 16 off his first five overs; he disappeared for 26 in two overs in the batting Powerplay. Sangakkara stepped out to launch the first ball of Gul`s second spell for a straight six. When Gul overdid the bouncer in the next over, Sangakkara pulled him for six more over fine leg.
Sangakkara dominated the 110-run fourth-wicket partnership with Jayawardene, who played some innovative strokes. He was quick to lap-sweep and sweep the spinners, and even reverse-pulled Saeed Ajmal for four over point. Pakistan managed to dismiss the duo in the 44th and 45th overs to limit the damage, but most of it had already been inflicted. Pakistan`s self-destruction later sealed the issue.
BDST: 1330 HRS, June 17, 2012
Edited by: Manoz Halder, Newsroom Editor
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