At a packed venue heaving with a raucous mass constantly screaming ‘Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka’, the host gifted a celebratory night to its fans. Mahela Jayawardene’s men defeated Pakistan by 16 runs in the ICC WorldTwenty20 semifinal at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Thursday.
Trailing Sri Lanka’s 139 for four, Pakistan scored 123 for seven and crashed out of the tournament. Initially the openers — skipper Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir — remained steady until the last ball of the Power Play while Ajantha Mendis emerged on the scene.
Nazir was castled and Hafeez (42) continued to be the pivot and after a lull, the match reached its tipping point in the tenth over.
Angelo Mathews’ slower deliveries pinged Nasir Jamshed’s pad and lured a miscued shot from Kamran Akmal.
Sri Lanka was back in the game and its position of strength was further bolstered when left-arm spinner Rangana Herath curled one across Shoaib Malik’s bat and knocked the off-stump.
Pakistan seemed to suffer the self-destructive itch every five overs and in the 15th bowled by Herath, Hafeez and Afridi succumbed with ungainly hoicks that just scythed through the air.
Hafeez failed to build on the two reprieves he had on seven and 24 as Herath (tough chance) and Lasith Malinga (sitter) dropped him. Pakistan never recovered after its leader’s exit.
Earlier, a fluid start did not evolve into the expected frenzied finish as Sri Lanka scored 139 for four.
Unlike its Super Eights match against England when Kumar Sangakkara stepped out for the toss, Sri Lanka did not spring any captaincy-twist as Mahela Jayawardene walked out along with Mohammad Hafeez.
The Sri Lankan skipper opted to bat and flicked the match’s second ball for four off Sohail Tanvir. The left-arm seamer had replaced Abdul Razzak in the Pakistan eleven.
Hafeez employed spin from the other end as Raza Hasan came onto bowl and watched Tillakaratne Dilshan cut sharply for four.
Soon it was all about total spin as the Pakistan skipper swapped Hasan, Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi but Jayawardene (42, 36b, 7x4) proved equal to the challenge.
Jayawardene moved sideways at the crease and created room to either scoop over short fine-leg or essay the reverse-hit that hoodwinked the fielder at backward point.
The desire to keep picking his spots behind the wicket also undid Jayawardene as he hit Afridi straight to Hasan at short fine-leg.
Kumar Sangakkara strode in and muscled Afridi over mid-wicket and clipped Ajmal on either side of sweeper cover.
Racing away at a frenetic tempo, Sangakkara, against the run of play, holed out in the deep once Hafeez stepped into bowl and the scoring rate dipped.
Dilshan struggled for fluency and found asylum in singles and though he shared a 33-run third-wicket partnership off 30 deliveries with Jeevan Mendis, the innings had lost its thrust.
The needed frenzy in the slog went missing as Umar Gul, stepping in from the 16th over, bowled fast and full and choked the runs.
Thisara Perera and Angelo Mathews added some belated urgency in the end but it proved too little too late.
After Mathews edged a four off Gul’s first ball of the last over and then scampered a single, Perera nearly hammered Gul’s skull with a shot that whizzed past the speedster’s head to the boundary.
The next ball elicited an inside-out four over cover before a single and a brace were pocketed off the last two deliveries.
Sri Lanka: M. Jayawardene c Hasan b Afridi 42 (36b, 7x4), T. Dilshan lbw b Gul 35 (43b, 3x4), K. Sangakkara c Malik b Hafeez 18 (11b, 3x4), J. Mendis st. Kamran b Ajmal 15 (18b, 1x4), T. Perera (not out) 11 (7b, 2x4), A. Mathews (not out) 10 (6b, 1x4); Extras (b-3, w-4, nb-1): 8; Total (for four wkts. in 20 overs): 139.
Fall of wickets: 1-63 (Jayawardene), 2-84 (Sangakkara), 3-117 (Dilshan), 4-118 (J. Mendis).
Pakistan bowling: Tanvir 3-0-11-0, Hasan 4-0-26-0, Ajmal 4-0-33-1, Afridi 4-0-28-1, Hafeez 2-0-12-1, Gul 3-0-26-1.
Pakistan: M. Hafeez st. Sangakkara b Herath 42 (40b, 4x4, 1x6), I. Nazir b A. Mendis 20 (21b, 3x4), N. Jamshed lbw b Mathews 4 (8b), K. Akmal c Jayawardene b Mathews 1 (2b), S. Malik b Herath 6 (7b), U . Akmal (not out) 29 (22b 3x4), S. Afridi b Herath 0 (1b), S. Tanvir st. Sangakkara b A. Mendis 13 (8b, 1x4), U. Gul (not out) 2 (6b); Extras (lb-2, w-9) 11; Total (for seven wkts. in 20 overs) 123
Fall of wickets: 1-31 (Nazir), 2-55 (Jamshed), 3-57 (Kamran), 4-64 (Malik), 5-91 (Hafeez), 6-91 (Hafeez), 7-113 (Tanvir).
Sri Lanka bowling: Mathews 4-0-27-2, Kulasekara 3-0-15-0, Malinga 4-0-19-0, A. Mendis 4-0-27-2, Perera 1-0-8-0, Herath 4-0-25-3.
MoM: M. Jayawardene
Keywords: ICC WorldTwenty20