Hambantota: Sri Lanka threw their wickets away through reckless shots, conceded 17 runs through wides and about 10 through misfields, but thanks to the Josephian Mafia - a moniker Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews have earned from the school they shared - still won by a whopping 37 runs. It was an unremarkable night of cricket with most of the wickets owing neither to the bowling nor the pitch, but many will argue it`s a trait that can be attributed to Twenty20 cricket in general because of the devaluation of a wicket.
Perera and Mathews, though, stood out. Perera first scored a two-a-ball 32 to give Sri Lanka a fighting chance from 89 for 7. Mathews then bowled a testing spell of outswing for eight runs and two wickets. The two came together when Perera flew at third man to catch Shoaib Malik off the bowling of Mathews. Perera and Mathews were the highlight of the night, which featured a lot of inexplicable cricket otherwise.
At the top of the innings, having won the toss, three Sri Lankan batsmen used to Twenty20 cricket of late in the IPL, got themselves out in Sohail Tanvir`s first three overs. Jayawardene got a leading edge before judging the pace of the pitch, Dilshan picked out fine leg, and Sangakkara dragged a full and wide delivery on. On another day all three could have gone for boundaries, and the bowler and the pitch would have had just as much to do with it.
The remaining batsmen struggled to find balance between rebuilding and keeping the rate up. Both Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews survived run-out chances before slogging and connecting with thin air.
Thirty-three-year-old debutant wicketkeeper Shakeel Ansar then missed a chance to stump Lahiru Thirimanne. The batsman proceeded to add 22 to his eight then. Ansar made a comeback, though, when he broke 24-run partnership between Thirimanne and another debutant Kaushal Lokuarachchi with a direct flick. Thirimanne followed it up with a reverse-sweep straight down short-third man`s throat. At 89 for 7 in the 17th over, Sri Lanka threatened to not even bat out their allocation.
Perera, though, turned the momentum a little with some clean hitting. Most of it came off the bowling of Umar Gul, whose last two overs went for 30. Still, going into the break, Pakistan were the favourites. Only for two balls. Two inexplicable deliveries when first-time captain Mohammad Hafeez and Ansar indulged in a spot-the-point-fielder contest. Nuwan Kulasekara laughed his way to two wickets with short and wide deliveries. Last checked, Hafeez and Ansar were watching replays and arguing as to who found Dilshan better.
The others didn`t find fluency at all as Pakistan confounded all by not sending Umar Akmal in before No. 6. Ahmed Shehzad played a long innings, but his strike-rate of under 100 could have worked if other batsmen had hung around. Mathews got Khalid Latif and Malik, and at 46 for 4 in the 10th over, Akmal felt obliged to hit out. Except it`s not easy when Malinga is bowling. A top edge ended it for Akmal, and it was all over bar Shahid Afridi.
That lasted two deliveries as Afridi heaved at offspinner Sachitra Senanayake, and edged him to third man. The formalities were finished soon, with Perera fittingly taking the last wicket.
BDST: 1233HRS, June 2, 2012
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