Pakistan make short work of Sri Lanka’s challenge

218971.5A measured Ahmed Shehzad, a spry Shoaib Malik and a belligerent Umar Akmal hit 46 runs each to carry Pakistan to 175 for 5, a total Sri Lanka’s chase never had the measure of. Milinda Siriwardana and Chamara Kapugedera played sprightly innings from the lower middle order, but Pakistan were always favourites to defend their score, having had the hosts at 19 for 3 in the fourth over. Sohail Tanvir was prime destroyer with the new ball, and finished with figures of 3 for 29 from his four overs. The hosts fell short by 29 runs.

Shehzad had been instrumental to providing the platform, but it was Malik and Akmal’s fourth-wicket charge that claimed control of the match for Pakistan. They came together in the middle of the 12th over and blasted 81 runs from 45 balls, taking a particular liking to Lasith Malinga, whose three overs to the pair cost 37 runs.

Debutant left-arm seamer Binura Fernando wasn’t spared either, going at 9.5 in his four overs. Though legspinner Jeffrey Vandersay returned the most economical figures of the innings, Malinga did not employ any of his supplementary spin options.

Pakistan had begun their innings with a wobble as well, losing Mukhtar Ahmed to Angelo Mathews’ tight lines in the second over, as the visitors failed to hit a boundary in the first 20 balls. They progressed at seven an over during the Powerplay and, although they would soon lose Hafeez as well, were nudged ahead by Shehzad’s steady hand. He hit only four boundaries off 38 balls, relying instead on well-weighted strokes into the outfield.

His botched ramp shot off Thisara Perera brought Malik and Akmal together, and the pair saw out the end of Vandersay – who sent down his full quota without conceding a boundary – before taking aim at the seamers. They slammed a four apiece off Malinga’s wayward 14th over, took 11 off Mathews next up, and then Akmal bludgeoned two successive sixes, including a hook, off Fernando’s friendly seam bowling to reap 17 runs from the 16th.

The plunder continued thereafter – Akmal prospering with an array of slashes and slogs, Malik pressing forward with a little more culture. Akmal launched an attempted Malinga yorker high over long-on for six to come within one blow of a half-century, but the bowler got the next ball right. He trapped Akmal plumb in front of the stumps with the last ball of the penultimate over to leave the batsman with 46 from 24.

Malik remained unbeaten at the end of the innings, having faced 31 deliveries, of which only five were dot balls. Malinga’s figures, meanwhile, were only slightly redeemed by the wicket. He had 46 for 1 from his full allotment of overs.

Kusal Perera aimed a leg-side heave off Anwar Ali third ball of the chase, but managed only a top-edge to mid-on. Tillakaratne Dilshan edged a seaming Tanvir delivery behind next over, before Kithuruwan Vithanage soon fell to the same bowler, deflecting a full delivery onto his stumps.

Mathews and debutant Siriwardana attempted a recovery, but neither batsman managed the boundaries that would have kept Sri Lanka in sight of the required rate. When Mathews was bowled by Imad Wasim at the end of the 10th over, Sri Lanka needed more than 12 runs an over.

Siriwardana, one of the four T20 debutants for Sri Lanka in this game, provided some hope with clean hitting, mostly off the spinners. His strike over long-on off Shahid Afridi was particularly memorable, but arguably, Kapugedera’s hitting was even better. Playing his first match for Sri Lanka since June 2012, he waltzed down the pitch to launch Malik into the sightscreen off his second ball, then hoisted Tanvir’s final ball of the day over the cover rope with a languid extension of the arms. Siriwardana was dismissed for 35 off 18, Kapugedera stayed not out at 31 from 16.

Despite this barrage, Pakistan eased home to complete Sri Lanka’s seventh loss in eight T20 matches at the Premadasa Stadium. (Courtesy ESPN Cricinfo)

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