(Srilankamirror) – Pakistan got most things right in their effort to cast aside the memory of their batting debacle in the previous ODI, putting up 247, a score Misbah-ul-Haq, at the toss, believed was competitive on this Premadasa track. Down 1-2 in this series, Pakistan’s batsmen produced a collective display: they were led by Imran Farhat’s fluent half-century at the start, solid batting from Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, and a typically attacking knock from Umar Akmal in the latter stages.
While their performance was a significant improvement, Pakistan could have done better, but three batsmen threw their wickets away after looking set for a sizeable score. Farhat, who replaced a “rested” Younis Khan, was among them and in his first ODI in four months, he confidently set about steering Pakistan towards a healthy position.
A batsman who relies heavily on wrist work and follows up his shots with ample flourish, Farhat got going with a couple of meaty drives off Lasith Malinga – through extra cover and then square, past point. Nuwan Kulasekara was slashed as well and when he attempted to dart the ball back in, Farhat flicked him through square leg and then down to the fine-leg boundary. He was iffy when Kulasekara first went round the wicket and nipped it away, but counterattacked. In the 11th over, Farhat carted him over mid-on, pulled over midwicket and smacked through point for three fours.
As the field was pushed back, both Farhat and Ali – continuing his good form – showed adeptness at picking the singles, at one stage taking 12 in 12 balls. Ali looked equally assured, cashing in on a couple of pitched-up deliveries to drive them in the V and dispatching the short ones through point. The flow was broken when Farhat, at the onset of the bowling Powerplay in the 19th over, threw away his wicket by pulling Thisara Perera down deep midwicket’s throat. Ali undermined a steadily progressing stand with Shafiq, driving the legspinner Jeevan Mendis straight to extra cover. That brought Misbah to the crease, and the scoring-rate consequently dipped as he took time to get set.
Shafiq, a strong bottom-hand player, drove well down the pitch and took the lead in the stand with his captain but a moment’s indecision in the 33rd over ended his stay, run out by an under-arm throw by Lahiru Thirimanne. Misbah continued to play a complementary role, for Akmal’s entry infused the innings with some urgency to check Sri Lanka’s brief comeback. He walked down, then across, to Angelo Mathews to clip him to the fine-leg boundary, an area he exploited thrice against Malinga in the batting Powerplay that was taken in the 36th over. Perera, who grabbed six wickets including a hat-trick on Saturday, didn’t get his attempted yorkers right; the resulting length balls were launched for two sixes by Akmal over the midwicket boundary.
Having reached 220 in 44 overs, another 50 runs seemed gettable. Akmal was picking Malinga’s slower ones and Shahid Afridi had warmed up with a couple of boundaries, but Sri Lanka pulled it back. Malinga was accurate with his yorkers and Kulasekara had Afridi caught off a full toss. Akmal made room, moved across, swung hard, tried to scoop, but Malinga had the better of the contest at the death. His thrift ensured Akmal managed only nine runs off his last 19 balls, and Pakistan just 27 off the last six overs. Will a bowling attack, without Saeed Ajmal, ensure that doesn’t make a difference in the outcome?