It was almost as if Friday’s game was being replayed all over again, only the scorecards of the teams were exchanged. While Lanka batted first and successfully defended a low score in the first ODI at Hambantota, Pakistan reversed the procedure at the same venue on Sunday. They batted poorly but were rescued by a timely half-century by Shahid Afridi, who got some good support from Shoaib Malik. Still, the target of 123 was anything but threatening. Credit to Pakistan bowlers, however, for the manner in which they fought back, just like the Lankans the other day, and never allowed the hosts to get anywhere close to the target.
Afridi’s role in the series-levelling win was significant. While his unbeaten half-century with the bat was crucial, it would have gone in vain had Pakistan not come up it with a defining bowling effort. Afridi himself played a stellar role in the same, cleaning up Tillakaratne Dilshan and Chamara Kapugedera, both of whom got to starts but could not carry on. The good part from Pakistan’s point of view was that all the bowlers were on top of their game and gave no respite to the Lankans.
From start to end, Pakistan were in control. It all began with Yasir Arafat’s brilliant opening spell. Defending a paltry total, Pakistan needed to get some quick wickets early. This is where Arafat stepped up his game. He did not give any room to the batsmen, as a result of which a frustrated Kumar Sangakkara went early. The Lankan think tank then tried to unsettle the bowling side by sending in Nuwan Kulaserkara one down. However, Pakistan had an answer to every question Lanka posed on this day. Arafat bowled a few probing deliveries to the pinch hitter and Kulasekara succumbed.
Mohammad Sami had it easy following the early dismissals. However, credit should be given to him for keeping up the pressure. He was economical in his spell during which he claimed the scalps of Lahiru Thirimanne and Thisara Perera. The latter’s dismissal was especially significant since it was Perera’s knock that turned around the game for Lanka on Friday. If Lanka wanted to make a game of it, there were now hugely dependent on Angelo Mathews. However, Pakistan did not allow him to get much of the strike. They kept chipping away at the wickets at the other end, and were deservedly the victors.
Another significant factor that aided Pakistan’s cause was the absence of Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga. It was surprisingthat while they were rested in spite of the fact that the series wasn’t won. Is it an indication that T20s don’t count for much? Anyways, well done Pakistan, for a perfect team effort.
- By a Cricket Analyst