Pakistan 322-5 (Hafeez 122) beat
Sri Lanka 311 (K Perera 64) by 11 runs
First One-Day International, Sharjah
An opening One-Day International that Pakistan should have won comfortably was turned into something spectacularly close in Sharjah by Sri Lanka’s eighth-wicket pair of Seekkuge Prasanna and Sachithra Senanayake.
Brought together at the fall of Thisara Perera with over 100 runs still needed for victory and the required run rate approaching 12 per over, they got the equation down to 27 off the final two overs courtesy of some poor Pakistan death bowling and fielding.
When Senanayake then clubbed the first ball of the penultimate over bowled by Sohail Tanvir over the ropes and Umar Akmal fumbled behind the stumps to leave 15 needed off eight balls, Pakistan must have thought they had thrown away the game. However, substitute fielder Anwar Ali caught Senanayake’s mistimed lofted shot at the second attempt and relief soon followed for the nominal home side.
With 14 needed off the final over, Lasith Malinga fell to the first ball via a run-out, while Prasanna’s innings was brought to an end three balls later at 42 off 25 balls and Sri Lanka were all out 12 runs short of completing a magnificent comeback. Together Prasanna and Senanayake (42 off 24 balls) had added 87 runs in only 45 deliveries and had shown up Pakistan’s familiar failings in the field and how much they miss the injured Umar Gul at the death. The pair represent a bright future for Sri Lanka moving forward as they look to rebuild following the surely not-too-distant retirements of some of their senior players.
Earlier in the evening, the headlines had been stolen by Pakistan’s batsmen. Sharjeel Khan continued his trend of showing promise at the top of the order by smashing a run-a-ball 61, while Mohammad Hafeez ended his lean run by hitting his seventh ODI century.
After losing Ahmed Shehzad for 11 to Suranga Lakmal after winning the toss, Sharjeel and Hafeez put on 83 for their second wicket. Hafeez then added a further 139 for the third-wicket with Pakistan’s other recent debutant Sohaib Maqsood as the total climbed.
Maqsood was finally run-out for 73 off 68 balls, but Shahid Afridi came to the crease at the optimum time and provided a final flourish. He blasted five balls over or to the boundary during a stay at the crease that lasted only 12 balls but yielded 34 runs. Hafeez was eventually dismissed in the final over for 122 off 129 balls, having played the ‘bat-through-the-innings’ role almost to perfection.
Sri Lanka’s bowling figures made torrid reading, just as some of Pakistan’s would later on. Lakmal ended with two wickets but conceded 73 runs, while Thisara Perera went for 53 runs from his six overs. Senanayake and Prasanna were arguably the picks, each conceding around five runs per over.
Sri Lanka’s run chase then got off to a good start courtesy of Kushal Perera. He followed up his 84 in the second Twenty20 International, by hitting 64 off 68 balls at the top of the order. 66 was added with Tillakaratne Dilshan (30 off 43) for the first-wicket, with further contributions following from Kumar Sangakkara (23 off 33), Dinesh Chandimal (46 off 50) and Angelo Mathews (31 off 32).
However, wickets fell with increasing regularity as the innings progressed and the required run rate increased. A defeat of magnitude looked on the cards, but Senanayake and Prasanna were simply exceptional and made it extremely close.
Bilawal Bhatti (7-0-56-1), Sohail Tanvir (10-0-69-1) and Junaid Khan (5.4-0-44-3) were all expensive in the latter stages, with Saeed Ajmal a familiar pick of the attack with none for 48 from his 10 overs. Shahid Afridi picked up a couple of wickets prior to the onslaught, with Hafeez backing up his century with a solid spell of one for 52 with his off-spin to earn the man of the match award. That award could so easily have gone to Prasanna or Senanayake if only 12 more runs had been eked out.
The two sides meet again in two days time in Dubai for the second match in the five-match ODI series.
© Cricket World 2013