Living up to its description of ‘dark horses' for winning the tournament, Pakistan, overwhelmed Sri Lanka in its Group A match in the ICC World Cup here.

The team, which was supposed to be reeling under the loss of its four main players to an ICC ban, and which has not figured in many lists of teams billed to make the semifinals, served notice of its intentions on Saturday, with a fine display of batting and bowling.

Of course, not one fielder hit the stumps from anywhere on the field – and this might as well be a record in modern day ODI cricket — but then, that's the way the Pakistani team is.

Chasing 278 for a win under the notorious Premadasa lights, the opening Sri Lankan pair of Upul Tharanga and Thillakaratne Dilshan put on 76 for the first wicket before a diving Afridi held on to a catch offered by Tharanga. Offie Hafeez had tossed one up and Tharanga drove him on the up.

Afridi steps up

Then, Captain Afridi reminded everyone once again that he can deliver with the ball too, bowling a tidy line and length: Dilshan tried to cut one on the stumps, but the ball was too close. Dilshan missed, and glanced back to see the bails of his off stump missing. Afridi came back much later and had Sangakkara taking chances against him because the asking run rate had climbed to eight-plus. It was only a matter of time before Sangakkara holed out to Ahmed Shehzad at long on, becoming Afridi's 300th ODI wicket.

In another clever move, Afridi brought back Shoaib Akhtar in the 19th over. Shoaib crashed one through the defences of Jayawardena in the next over. Jayawardena was driving outside the line prompting Shoaib to spread his arms and do a slow run, his trade-mark aeroplane celebration.

This is around the time when Sri Lanka lost the plot. It seemed like a procession had begun when Thilan Samaraweera walked in and out in quick time, but Chamara Silva provided the support that Sangakkara demanded. Kamran Akmal had a horrid day behind the wicket and missed at least two stumping chances – and the beneficiary both times was Sangakkara, first when he was on 22 and then, 33. The bowler was Abdur Rehman. Then Rehman joined the League of Extraordinarily Bad Fielders, a club that has many members from Pakistan, when he dropped a sitter offered by Chamara Silva at mid wicket.

The Sri Lankan 50 runs came in 67 balls and the 100 came in 135 balls. But it kept losing wickets at regular intervals and at the end of 40 overs, ended up at a hopeless 178 for 5 from where an assault on the target looked difficult.

Earlier, a patient 72 from the much derided Younus Khan and his century partnership with Misbah-ul-Haq (83), propelled Pakistan to a fighting total against Sri Lanka. In two matches, the pair has saved Pakistan the blushes a second time.

Before the start of the game Pakistan Captain Shahid Afridi said that 270 would be a good total. The team got him a little over that.

Openers Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad looked better than they did in the first match, though Shehzad exhibited some nerves, slashing and missing a few times. Shehzad's (13) first scoring stroke was a slash outside off-stump, to a ball that was pitched up, in the second over of the match. The ball sailed through where second slip would have been. Sri Lanka, strangely defensive, started with just one slip and soon after the slash, moved Mahela Jayawardena to second slip. The miss did not prove costly as Shehzad nicked attempting to drive Perara, who pitched one a shade short of good length. Sangakkara took a regulation catch.

After Shehzad's departure, it was left to Hafeez (32) to take the attack to the opposition camp. Gone was the sluggishness of the opening match. At the end of 10 overs, Pakistan raced to 65.

The HafeezKamran Akmal (39) pair, which first came together in last September's series against England and was successful till Kamran was dropped from the side, were on cruise mode, putting on 48 off 38 balls. But then, a misunderstanding cut short the best phase of the Pakistani innings — Kamran thought there was a single when Hafeez turned Muralidaran's first ball of his first spell to short-fine leg. But Hafeez, strangely, did not agree and both batsmen ended up at the same end. The throw to Muralidaran's end was long, but then it hardly mattered. Hafeez, like Team Pakistan of late, had already given up. After Hafeez fell, the next 35 runs required to bring up the 100 of the Pakistani innings took 8.5 overs.

Sangakkara gets record

Then suddenly Kamran woke up and wanted to hoist Herath. Well, the first part of his idea worked: he stepped out and heaved. The ball dipped and turned away from him, giving Sangakkara the chance to become the wicket keeper with the most stumpings in world cup cricket.

The exit of Kamran brought Misbah-ul-Haq and Younus together. They took time to settle down and, then began a phase of consolidation in singles and twos. This meant that the next fifty took another 10 overs, but, importantly, no wickets were lost. The 200 came up at roughly the same pace, in 38.3 overs.

The duo brought up the 50 runs partnership in 59 balls; 100 runs in 113 balls. Younus (72) compiled the first 50 of the match in 56 balls and Misbah followed him. Younus perished trying to accelerate; his intended sweep off Herath ending up as a top edge and went in slow motion even as short fine leg closed in. Afridi added some late flourish.

Sri Lanka was without the services of Lasith Malinga, who was clearly not comfortable bowling at the nets on Friday. “We are not going to take any risk with Malinga right now,” Captain Sangakkara said. The team chose Chamara Silva over Charama Kapugedera. There was some discussion on the need to take Ajantha Mendis in the eleven, since Pakistan had not played him much, but Rangana Herath got the nod ahead of Mendis. Pakistan went in with the same 11 that played Kenya.

Pakistan: M. Hafeez (run out) 32 (31b, 4x4, 1x6), A. Shehzad c Sangakkara b Perera 13 (23b, 2x4), K. Akmal st Sangakkara b Herath 39 (48b, 5x4), Younis c Jayawardene b Herath 72 (76b, 4x4), Misbah-ul-Haq (not out) 83 (91b, 6x4), U. Akmal c Dilshan b Muralitharan 10 (15b, 1x4), S. Afridi c Dilshan b Mathews 16 (12b, 3x4), A. Razzaq c (sub) Kapugedera b Perera 3 (4b); Extras (lb-4, w-5): 9; Total (for 7 in 50 overs): 277.

Fall of wickets: 1-28, 2-76, 3-105, 4-213, 5-238, 6-267, 7-277.

Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 10-1-64-0, Perera 9-0-62-2, Mathews 10-0-56-1, Muralitharan 10-0-35-1, Herath 10-0-46-2, Dilshan 1-0-10-0.

Sri Lanka: U. Tharanga c Afridi b Hafeez 33 (43b, 6x4), T. Dilshan b Afridi 41 (55b, 5x4). K. Sangakkara c Shehzad b Afridi 49 (61b, 2x4, 1x6), M. Jayawardene b Akhtar 2 (10b), T. Samaraweera st. Kamran b Afridi 1 (4b), C. Silva st. Kamran b Rehman 57 (78b, 5x4), A. Mathews c Shehzad b Afridi 18 (20b, 2x4), T. Perara b Akhtar 8 (6b, 1x4), N. Kulasekara c Umar b Gul 24 (14b, 2x4, 1x6), R. Herath (not out) 4 (10b), M. Muralitharan (not out) 0 (1b); Extras (b-1, lb-10, w-16, nb-2): 29; Total (for 9 wickets in 50 voers) 266.

Fall of wickets: 1-76, 2-88, 3-95, 4-96, 5-169, 6-209, 7-232, 8-233, 9-265.

Pakistan bowling: Akhtar 10-0-42-2, Razzaq 5-1-23-0, Gul 9-0-60-1, Hafeez 6-0-33-1, Afridi 10-0-34-4, Rehman 10-1-63-1.

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