Pakistan 189-4 (Umar Akmal 77, Misbah-ul-Haq 72no) beat
Sri Lanka 188 (Sangakkara 71) by six wickets
Asia Cup, Dhaka
Half-centuries from Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal dug Pakistan out of a tricky situation and carried them towards a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup.
Chasing 189 to win, they had slipped to 33 for three in the 13th over but a 152-run partnership between the pair put Pakistan on course for a victory that all but assures them a place in the final.
Aizaz Cheema had earlier taken four for 43 and Saeed Ajmal three for 27 as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 188 in 45.4 overs before slumping to their second straight defeat. They now require a big win over Bangladesh and other results to go their way if they are to stand any chance of maintaining their proud record of never failing to reach an Asia Cup final.
Kumar Sangakkara hit 71 and Upul Tharanga 57 but they ground out the runs after coming together with the score on 65 for four following Cheema's early burst, aided by Umar Gul, who returned wto for 20 with the wickets of Dinesh Chandimal for nought and Nuwan Kulasekara for four.
Cheema removed Tillakaratne Dilshan (20), Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene (12) and Lasith Malinga (1).
If Sri Lanka struggled against Pakistan's pace bowlers, they also found the spinners hard to handle, Saeed Ajmal capitalising by taking three for 27 as his doosra proved hard to pick.
Tharanga, Farveez Maharoof (2) and Suranga Lakmal (0) all fell to the wily off-spinner while Hammad Azam, who had Lahiru Thirimanne caught by Akmal, was the other bowler to take a wicket.
Lakmal then had Nasir Jamshed (18) caught by Tharanga and Mohammad Hafeez was caught by Chandimal off Seekkuge Prasanna for 11 as Pakistan faltered.
When Younus Khan fell for two to a catch by Maharoof off Lakmal, Pakistan were in danger of losing their way but the outstanding partnership between Misbah and Akmal saw them get back into the game.
Akmal made 77 in 72 balls, hitting seven fours and two fours while Misbah blended aggression with steady accumulation perfectly, hitting 72 not out in 93 deliveries.
Maharoof removed Akmal in the 39th over but his strike was too little, too late, as Hammad helped Misbah finish off the game with an unbeaten four.
India meet Bangladesh in the next game tomorrow (16th March). Pakistan play India on Sunday (18th March) before Sri Lanka take on Bangladesh two days later.
© Cricket World 2012