By Sa’adi Thawfeeq
There was little Sri Lanka could do to stop a well-oiled Pakistan team from beating them for the third time in the five-match series and clinching it with an emphatic seven-wicket win at the R Premadasa Stadium.
The series win was Pakistan’s first since 2006 in Sri Lanka. They last won 2-0 a three-match series.
Considering the lack of success of the Lankan bowlers to restrict the strong Pakistan batting line up, their total of 256-9 batting first after winning the toss looked totally inadequate.
And so it proved when Pakistan cruised home without much of a fuss or a sweat to win the fourth ODI with 9.1 overs to spare scoring 257 for three wickets.
An opening partnership of 75 off 67 balls between skipper Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad set them on course for this win.
Azhar perished for 33 slashing at a delivery from Lasith Malinga to give substitute fielder Sachitra Senanayake an easy catch at deep third man.
It was only Malinga’s third wicket of the series and his lack of success spread to the rest of the bowling attack who could make no impression on the Pakistan batsmen as they milked runs and scored boundaries at will.
Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez continued from where their captain left off to steer Pakistan nearer home with a partnership of 115 off 120 balls that more or less sealed the game for them.
Shehzad missed out on a well deserved century when he attempted to reach it with a boundary to third man but only succeeded in offering a catch to Kusal Perera. He departed after making a well composed 95 off 90 balls with 12 fours and a six, and picked up the man of the match award for his effort.
Hafeez was dismissed soon afterwards 23 runs later for 70 scored off 88 balls with one six and eight fours, leaving Sarfraz Ahmed (17 not out) and Shoaib Malik (29 not out) to see Pakistan through. Malik finished the game off hastily slamming four sixes in his cameo knock that came off 16 balls.
Sri Lanka’s batsmen were once again found wanting of failing to go and playing a big innings. Apart from Tillakaratne Dilshan who made 50 and Lahiru Thirimanne 90 none of the other batmen made any noteworthy contribution.
Sri Lanka lost the wicket of Kusal Perera for a second ball duck but recovered quickly through a second wicket stand of 109 between Dilshan and Thirimanne, only to lose that advantage to Pakistan when the rest of the batters failed to capitalize on that partnership.
To Pakistan’s credit it must be said that their fielding was outstanding and their bowlers stuck to their unflagging lengths that saw Sri Lanka unable to make much headway after being 142-2 in the 31st over. In fact Pakistan conceded only six fours and a six in the final 19 overs.
Pakistan’s win today makes the fifth and final ODI at Hambantota on Sunday only of academic interest.
With 90.4 rating points Pakistan are two points clear of West Indies who have 88.4 points, but who qualifies for the last and eighth place in the ICC Champions trophy will have to wait until the tri-series in Zimbabwe where Pakistan and West Indies are also part of.
K Perera c Imad b Irfan 0
T Dilshan b Imad 50
L Thirimanne c Shehzad b Yasir 90
A Mathews c Yasir b Rahat 12
D Chandimal c Yasir b Irfan 20
A Priyanjan c Hafeez b Anwar 18
M Siriwardana c Rizwan b Anwar 19
S Pathirana run out 14
L Malinga c Rizwan b Irfan 17
S Lakmal not out 1
N Pradeep not out 0
Extras (b-4, lb-1, nb-2, w-8) 15
Total (9 wickets, 50 overs) 256
Fall of wickets: 10 (K Perera), 2-109 (Dilshan), 3-143 (Mathews), 4-170 (Chandimal), 5-186 (Thirimanne), 6-215 (Siriwardana), 7-228 (Priyanjan), 8-243 (Pathirana), 9-252 (Malinga).
Bowling: Irfan 10-0-50-3 (nb1, w2), Anwar 7-0-41-2 (w4), Rahat 7-0-39-1 (w2), Yasir 10-0-50-1, Azhar 2-0-13-0, Imad 10-0-43-1, Malik 4-0-15-0.
Azhar Ali sub (Senanayake) b Malinga 33
Ahmed Shehzad c K Perera b Lakmal 95
Mohammad Hafeez c Chandimal b Siriwardana 70
Sarfraz Ahmed not out 17
Shoaib Malik not out 29
Extras (b-4, w-9) 13
Total (3 wickets, 40.5 overs) 257
Fall of wickets: 1-75 (Azhar), 2-190 (Shehzad), 3-213 (Hafeez).
Did not bat: Mohammad Rizwan, Imad Wasim, Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan.
Bowling: Malinga 9-2-46-1, Lakmal 8-0-50-1 (w3), Pathirana 10-0-81-0, Pradeep 2.2-0-9-0 (w1), Mathews 2.4-0-9-0 (w2), Siriwardana 5.5-0-28-1, Dilshan 3-0-30-0 (w3).