Although the 10th match of the Asia Cup was a dead rubber, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka would have been keen on winning the contest, as it was their last match before the World T20 in India began, even amidst reports that Pakistan had threatened to pull out of the event. The match was an opportunity for the two Asian giants to try and get their act right. But, while Pakistan ended up scraping through to a six-wicket win in the last over, both sides were off boil once again, which doesn’t augur well as they head into the mega event.
For Sri Lanka, their openers batted wonderfully well to add over 100 for the opening wicket. Yet, the Lankans only ended up making 150 for 4 in their stipulated 20 overs. At a time when the need was to accelerate, the batting side ended up losing too many quick wickets, as a result of which, they couldn’t finish off on a high in spite of Tillakaratne Dilshan remaining unbeaten till the end. This lack of progress in the last few overs hurt Sri Lanka in a big way, and played a big role in the eventual result, which went Pakistan’s way.
Dilshan, who remained unbeaten on 75, and Dinesh Chandimal, who struck a fluent 58, must be credited for their efforts at the top. But, the fall of Chandimal’s wicket was quickly followed by the loss of Shehan Jayasuriya. In hindsight, this is where the game turned as the momentum began to swing towards Pakistan. Mohammad Irfan then bowled brilliantly to get rid of Chamara Kapugedera and Dasun Shanaka in quick succession. Pakistan went into the series as a strong bowling outfit, and remained true to the same. The late wickets meant the Sri Lankan acceleration was thwarted.
Pakistan haven’t been in great batting form in the Asia Cup. But, on Friday, against an equally struggling Sri Lanka, they managed to find some rhythm. It was important that Pakistan got off to a confident start with the bat. And, while Mohammad Hafeez again fell early, Sharjeel Khan finally came to the party with a substantial knock at the top of the order. Sarfraz Ahmed again proved what a vital part of the batting outfit he has become while Umar Akmal carried on his fine form. It was his knock of 48 that ensured Pakistan got over the finish line.
Even as Pakistan managed the consolation win against Sri Lanka, they still have massive issue to deal with. Their fielding was absolutely pathetic against the Lankans. They had three chances to send back Dilshan, but faltered on every occasion, which isn’t acceptable of an international side. Also, while their bowling remains impressive, the performance of Mohamamd Nawaz will worry them. In the batting, Hafeez again failed, which means Pakistan have a headache at the top of the order. Sharjeel needed the last game to come up with a decent score. Pakistan will have to look at their game closely.
--By A Cricket Analyst