Chasing 345, Pakistan got off to a disappointing start as Imam-ul-Haq (12) top-edged a pull off Dilshan Madushanka. Skipper Babar Azam also registered another low score. He was out for 10 off 15 balls, strangled down leg by Madushanka. At 37/2, Sri Lanka were on top in the game. However, Rizwan and Shafique combined to first bring Pakistan back in the game and then push them ahead in the contest.
Shafique struck 10 fours and three sixes in his first World Cup innings. The Pakistan team management’s decision to bring him for Zaman, somewhat a forced one, turned out to be a master stroke. The batter looked in control of proceedings until he fell to a brilliant catch by substitute Dushan Hemantha at backward point, attempting to cut Matheesha Pathirana.
Following Shafique’s exit, Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed (22 not out off 10) took Pakistan home without any further trouble. Rizwan hit eight fours and three sixes in his innings, also battling cramps in theatrical fashion. Iftikhar helped himself to four fours in his cameo, again proving that he is developing into a good finisher for Pakistan.
Earlier, Sri Lanka also gave a good account of themselves with the bat. Kusal Perera fell for a duck, caught behind off Hasan Ali. But Kusal Mendis (122 off 77) and Pathum Nissanka (51 off 61) added 102 runs for the second wicket. The partnership was broken when Nissanka hit a poor delivery from Shadab Khan to a fielder.
Mendis, however, found another able ally in Sadeera Samarawickrama (108 off 89 balls). The duo added 111 for the third wicket to lay the foundation for a batting assault at the death. Mendis’ fine innings, which featured 14 fours and six sixes, was ended by Hasan Ali. The Pakistan pacer also dismissed Charith Asalanka for 1.
Samarawickrama held fort from one end and struck 11 fours and two sixes in his wonderful knock. But Sri Lanka kept losing wickets at the other end. From 218/2 in the 29th over, they finished at 344/9, which was a bit of a disappointing effort. Hasan Ali was the wrecker in chief, finishing with 4/71 in 10 overs.
--By A Cricket Correspondent