Sri Lanka were done in by poor batting and rain stoppages as Pakistan went one up in the one-day series. Batting first in bowler friendly conditions, Lanka needed to get off to a good start. However, their first four batsmen all fell in single scores, as a result of which the home side struggled. As usual, a lot was expected of the experienced trio of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. On the day though Pakistan bowlers were far superior. They made perfect use of the overcast conditions as a result of which Lankans were left to rue their decision to bat first.
It was a thorough team effort from Pakistan’s bowlers, with every one chipping in. Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir, all darted the ball around, bowled at pace as the Lankans had no answer to the moving ball. After being tied down, Dilshan had no option but to try and hit out but failed in his attempt. Pakistan then ensured that the pressure was never relieved on the Lankan batsmen. Even the experienced Kumar Sangakkara and skipper Mahela Jayawardene failed to break the shackles.
Gul, who was next to unplayable in his opening spell, was deservedly rewarded with the scalp of Jayawardene. Dinesh Chandimal found the going extremely tough in seaming conditions and ended up dragging a ball on to his stumps. Pakistan bowlers were so exceptionally good that they only conceded six fours in their entire Lankan innings. If Gul was brilliant with his three wickets, Sami was equally good. Sangakkara had an eternal struggle, hanging around for 31 balls before he was trapped in front by Sami. The Pakistan pacer was also rewarded with the important scalp of Angelo Mathews. Had a Lankan all-round got a decent start, he could have put the home side in a better position. This was Pakistan’s day though.
Sri Lanka did make a fight back towards the end. Lahiru Thirimanne gathered a sensible 42 off 73 balls. Further. Thirsara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara played likeable cameos. Still, a score of 135 in 42 overs wasn’t threatening. While the pacers did their bit, skipper Mohammad Hafeez was yet again impressive with his off spinners. Not only did he pick up two wickets but conceded only two runs per over in his allotted quota.
For Lanka to have even a semblance of a chance of winning the game, they need an exceptional start akin to the one in the first T20 match, when Kulasekara send back batsmen off the first two balls of the innings. They tried their best, and even got early wickets. Lasith Malinga and Kulasekara, while keeping the runs down, also sent back Azhar Ali and Younis Khan. There was no pressure of runs though, which meant Hafeez and Misbah Ul Haq could take their time. They did exactly that, and when both were dismissed, Umar Akmal got the team home playing with unexpected maturity.
Credit to Lankan bowlers for taking the game into the 35th over, but the lack of runs and rain interrupted their rhythm throughout.
--By A Cricket Analyst