Sri Lanka heaved a sigh of relief, pulling one back and levelling the one-days series 1-1 here. It is only Sri Lanka’s third victory in 12 matches, and it came at the right time.
Opening batsman Tilakaratne Dilshan came good, carried this bat through the innings, and scored a century on which the Sri Lankan innings rested. The hero of the first T20 game, Thissara Perera, came good with both the bat (24 off 14 balls) and took six Pakistani wickets to make sure that Sri Lanka was spared of any surprises.
Pakistan began the chase knowing the fact that the team has not managed to chase 280 plus targets more than 10 times in one-day history. They started well though, but a stroke of luck combined with breathtaking athleticism saw the end of opener Mohammad Hafeez. He played straight back to Thisara Perera to a pitched up delivery. Perera, was completing his follow though and going away from the ball.
Seeing the ball dart back towards the non-striker, Perera managed to stop in his follow through and dive towards the ball, hand stretched, palm open. The ball stuck.
Younus Khan’s nightmare continues. In the past five innings he has just one 50 plus score to show. In this innings, he was put down by Sangakkara off Perera, and four balls later, Younus Khan again offered Sangakkara a chance to make amends. This time, the veteran wicket keeper was not found wanting.
His fall brought to the crease Misbah-ul-Haq. Misbah seemed to lose his concentration mid-way, and it was left to the young Azhar Ali (96) to shoulder the responsibility of holding the side together. He did remarkably well, but with no support from the others – Misbah was the second highest scored with 27 – there was a limit to what Azhar could achieve.
Earlier, Dilshan finally found form, made a century off 120 balls, as Sri Lanka shook off its recent form as a bad dream, and applied itself to the task on hand – bat sensibly – and set a target of 281 for Pakistan to chase down in the second one day international here. The average first innings score at Pallekele is 221.
Sri Lanka re-jigged its batting order, bringing in Upul Thranga up to open in the innings, while Mahela Jayawardene dropped down the middle order. With the pitch drier and firmer, both openers, Dilshan and Tharanga, found it easier to play off the front foot, and add runs at almost run a ball. It helped that the Pakistani fielding was poor.
Tharanga was the first to depart with the score on 37, edging Sohail Tanvir to wicket keeper. Kumar Sangakkara came in, and promised a lot: he was middling the ball well and rotated the strike well too. Though the running between the wickets when he and Dilshan were at the crease left a lot to be desired, there was no problem. With Pakistani fielders anyone can take a chance and get away with it most of the time. Sangakkara added 47 for the second wicket, and, uncharacteristically played back to the first Hafeez delivery that he bowled. The ball did stop on him and he lobbed back a simple catch. Sangakkara stood there for a minute, annoyed with himself before walking back.
That wicket brought in an unsure Dinesh Chandimal, still looking for the form that he left behind in South Africa. Chandimal did well to hang around for 32 and was trapped in front by an Afridi slower ball that held its line. In came Mahela Jayawardene with exactly 20 overs to go. And, he played the remaining innings much like a T20 innings! By the time Saeed Ajmal got his first ODI wicket on this tour, in the form of Mahela, the damage was pretty much done: He put on 86 with Dilshan, and possibly, has taken the game away from Pakistan. Mahela’s 53 had some T20 shots – the switch hit, the dilscoop – and an array of regular ‘test’ shots including a fabulous cover drive that was easily the stroke of the innings.
Pakistan had won the first in the five match ODI series. Sri Lanka, despite having the two batsmen who have scored best in the shorter version in the game in 2012, T.M.Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara, has struggled of late, and have lost the last five matches. Against Pakistan, it has lost nine of the last 11 matches.
Earlier, Sri Lanka won the toss and elected to bat in the second one day international against Pakistan here on Saturday. Sri Lanka went in with an unchanged combination that lost the first match of the series, while injured Mohammad Sami has made way for Rahat Ali in the Pakistan side.
Sri Lanka: U.Tharanga c Sarfraz b Tanvir 18, T.M. Dilshan (not out) 119, K.Sangakkara c and b Hafeez 18, D. Chandimal lbw Afridi 32, M.Jayawardene b Ajmal 53, T.Perera (not out) 24, Extras (b-1,nb-1, lb-6, w-7): 15;Total (for four wickets in 50 overs) 280.
Fall of wickets: 1-37, 2-84, 3-154, 4-240.
Pakistan bowling: Gul 9-0-58-0, Tanvir 9-1-51-1, Afridi 10-0-50-1, Ali 4-0-34-0, Ajmal 10-1-49-1, Hafeez 8-1-30-1.
Pakistan: M.Hafeez c & b Perera 14, A.Ali b Kulasekara 96, Y.Khan c Sangakkara b Perera 4, Misbah-ul_Haq lbw Perera 27, U.Akmal c Sangakkara b Perera 3, S.Afridi c Sangakkara b Malinga 17, S.Ahmed lbw Kulasekara 20, S.Tanvir c Tharanga b Perera 3, U.Gul lbw Perera 14, S.Ajmal c Sangakkara b Malinga 4, R.Ali (not out) 0. Extras (lb-2): 2; Total: (all out in 46.4 overs) 204
Fall of Wickets: 1-48, 2-78, 3-127, 4-139, 5-157, 6-165, 7-170, 8-197, 9-204.
Sri Lanka bowling: Kulasekara 8.2-1-33-2, Malinga 8-1-40-2, Mathews 10-0-48-0, Perera 10-0-44-6, Herath 10-1-37-0