Pakistan spoil Sri Lankan party
Visiting side Pakistan beat World Cup hosts Sri Lanka by 11 runs in their Group A encounter in Colombo on Saturday.
Chasing 278 under lights was always going to be a difficult task, and the islanders never quite looked like pulling it off. They were always behind the asking rate as Pakistan took regular wickets, with Shahid Afridi bagging four of them.
The result takes Pakistan to the top of the table in Group A, ahead of Australia on net run rate.
It was also Sri Lanka’s seventh straight World Cup loss against their sub-continent rivals.
After winning the toss at a venue where batting first is a clear advantage, Pakistan managed their innings well to reach 277/7 in their 50 overs, despite some shaky moments.
A fourth-wicket stand of 108 between Misbah ul Haq and Younis Khan dominated the middle of the Pakistan innings after they found themselves in a degree of trouble at 105/3 in the 21st over.
This partnership did a world of good in re-establishing Pakistan’s prospects, because the pair not only survived but kept the scoreboard moving.
FINDING THE GAPS
Boundaries were not a major feature, but they ran exceptionally well and exploited the gaps in the field with aplomb. Their 20-over partnership ticked along at 5.26 runs per over, so the innings never stalled despite the lack of boundaries.
The stand eventually ended when senior partner Khan, looking to accelerate in the 41st over, was caught off the bowling of Rangana Herath for 72 off 76 balls.
Misbah remained at the crease until the end, however, finishing with 83 off 91, six fours included. A few boundaries from Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi helped him take Pakistan to their final total of 277/7.
The Pakistan innings had got off to a quick start after they won the toss and chose to bat, thanks to some powerful hitting from Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad. But both openers got out after getting themselves in.
Shehzad was beaten by a good ball from Thisara Perera to be caught behind, but Hafeez was run out after an extraordinary comedy of errors in which even Sri Lanka played a part. The home side lost control of the ball when both Hafeez and Kamran Akmal were stuck at the same end, but did eventually get the bails off!
Things were in the balance at that stage, with the score 76/2, but it got worse for Pakistan when Kamran Akmal played a terrible shot to Herath and got stumped with the score on 105.
Their innings could have gone either way from there, but Misbah and Khan’s resolve ensured Pakistan posted a competitive total.
“It was keeping a bit low but the batting conditions were good,” said Misbah. “It was a matter of staying there and making sure I batted until the end.
“It was also a very important toss for us to win, because the ball comes onto the bat nicely in the first innings here but it’s difficult to bat in the second innings.
“This is a good win for us going forward, because Sri Lanka are a good side and it was especially good to beat them at home.”
Sri Lanka’s fielding in the Pakistan knock was generally excellent, and all of their bowlers had their moments. Inevitably Muttiah Muralitharan was the most consistent, however, claiming 1/35 in his 10 overs.
Only in the first 14 overs of the Sri Lankan reply did they ever look in with a definite shot of chasing the 278 they needed.
Tillakaratne Dilshan and Upul Tharanga got them through that period unscathed, and with 76 runs on the board.
But once wickets started falling -- Mohammad Hafeez getting the initial breakthrough in removing Tharanga -- Sri Lanka found it harder and harder to keep up with the required run rate.
There was only one Sri Lankan partnership in excess of 50, as Kumar Sangakkara and Chamara Silva put on 73 for the fifth wicket, but they weren’t able to keep the runs flowing as Misbah and Khan had done earlier in the day.
Once Afridi had Sangakkara caught at long on for 49 things looked particularly difficult, and so it proved.
The slow-starting Silva found some boundaries in the latter part of his innings, before he was stumped off the bowling of Abdur Rehman for 57. He was Sri Lanka’s top scorer, but the 78 balls he needed were a few too many.
Number nine Nuwan Kulasekara fired 24 late runs to give the home fans hope right up until the last over, but he was caught in the deep off the penultimate ball and that left Muttiah Muralitharan needing an impossible 13 off one delivery.
Pakistan will need to sharpen their fielding if they want to win tighter matches. Kamran Akmal squandered two chances to stump Sangakkara, and the fielders missed numerous opportunities for direct-hit run-outs.
Fortunately the bowlers did enough damage, Afridi standing out with his 4/34 in 10. Shoaib Akhtar was also effective, taking 2/42 in his 10.
Sri Lanka – Upul Tharanga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara (capt & wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Chamara Silva, Angelo Mathews, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Rangana Herath, Muttiah Muralitharan
Pakistan – Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Kamran Akmal (wk), Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi (capt), Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Abdur Rehman, Shoaib Akhtar