An unbeaten eighth-wicket stand between Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara proved decisive as Sri Lanka claimed victory by 37 runs in opening T20 against Pakistan in Hambantota.
The hosts were rocking on 89 for seven in the 17th over when the tail-end duo were paired at the crease, but Perera’s 16-ball 32 helped Sri Lanka to 132 from their 20 overs.
Pakistan then lost Mohammad Hafeez and Shakeel Ansar with the first two balls of their reply and Angelo Mathews claimed two wickets for the loss of just eight runs as the visitors limped to 95 all out inside 18 overs.
Pakistan’s day started well enough with Sohail Tanvir (three for 12) removing openers Mahela Jayawardene (two) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (five) inside three overs.
Tanvir then dispatched third man Kumar Sangakkara after the wicketkeeper-batsman had reached 19 from 12 deliveries.
Lahiru Thirimanne’s 30 helped Sri Lanka to recover in tandem with underwhelming contributions by Dinesh Chandimal (10), Mathews (nine) and Kaushal Lokuarachchi (11), but it took the arrival of Perera and Kulasekara to forge momentum.
Perera smashed two sixes and two fours in a lively cameo to take Sri Lanka well into three figures, while Kulasekara (6no) stayed alive long enough to help his partner build a match-winning score.
Pakistan’s reply got off to a dismal start when Hafeez was removed by Kulasekara (two for 13) with his first delivery, while the swing bowler then sent Ansar packing with his very next ball.
The economical Mathews removed Khalid Latif (three) and Shoaib Malik (nine), while Ahmed Shehzad (36) and Umar Akmal (12) were the only players to reach double figures for the tourists.
Lasith Malinga (two for 12) and Sachithra Senanayake (two for 20) joined Mathews and Kulasekara in claiming braces as a balanced Sri Lankan attack prospered.
The two-match T20 series concludes on Sunday. (ESPN)