After displaying a clinical approach in its run-chase, Sri Lanka’s nerves showed towards the end in a two-wicket win over Pakistan at the R. Premadasa Stadium here on Thursday as it booked a date with India in the final of the Asia Cup.
The host lost five wickets for 36 runs and was forced to scramble over the line, into the teeth of a thrilling final over, bowled by Zaman Khan.
Defending seven runs, the debutant conceded just two runs off the first four balls before the ball took the edge of Charith Asalanka’s blade and went for a boundary. With two needed off the last delivery, Zaman fatally strayed on the pads and the left-hander flicked it for a couple amidst the deafening roar of a capacity crowd.
Before the chaos, Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama’s 100-run partnership for the third wicket was a lesson in setting up a chase. The duo ran hard to pick up the ones and twos when the spinners operated in tandem and hit the odd boundary when they missed their lengths to ensure that the asking rate never got out of hand.
The injection of intent came from openers Kusal Perera and Pathum Nissanka, who fetched a flurry of boundaries with the aim to keep abreast of the DLS par score in a rain-hit game.
Earlier, after electing to bat following a two-hour 15-minute delay in the start of play due to rain, Pakistan found itself floundering at 130 for five in the 28th over when the heavens opened again.
On either side of a 30-minute rain-break, Pakistan’s innings was a tale of two halves. Mohammad Rizwan (86 n.o., 73b, 6x4, 2x6) and Iftikhar Ahmed’s (47, 40b, 4x4, 2x6) 108-run partnership helped Pakistan ransack 122 off 86 after the interruption.
The pitch seemed to have eased up under the covers as Rizwan and Iftikhar cut loose in the first over of pacer Pramod Madushan’s second spell, laying into him with a six each. Rizwan showed Dunith Wellalage no respect in the following over, sweeping his flighted deliveries for a six and a four. Matheesha Pathirana was driven and pulled for two boundaries in one over. Maheesh Theekshana, who injured his hamstring while trying to save a boundary, limped through the last three overs of his spell and went for 12 runs off his last.
When Madushan’s slower deliveries became too predictable at the death, Iftikhar tonked him for a six to complete a 74-ball century stand with Rizwan, which wasn’t enough at the end.
Pakistan: 252/7 in 42 overs (Abdullah Shafique 52, Mohammad Rizwan 86 n.o., Iftikhar Ahmed 47; Matheesha Pathirana 3/65)
Sri Lanka: 252/8 in 42 overs (Kusal Mendis 91, Sadeera Samarawickrama 48, Charith Asalanka 49 n.o; Iftikhar Ahmed 3/50).
Target: 252 in 42 overs (DLS method).