Asia Cup: Umar Akmal ensures victory for Pakistan in a dead rubber: Even though it was an insignificant game as far as the tournament outcome is concerned, it was really good to see Pakistan and Sri Lanka ‘battle it out’ in the middle in all seriousness and the game going down to the wire.
Put into bat, the Lankan opening pair of Dinesh Chandimal and Dilshan Tilakratne gave a dream start to the team. The pair stayed together for 14.1 overs, in which they put up 110 runs.
Leading the side and playing in his 38th game (32nd innings), Chandimal brought up his third T20I half century which came in 43 deliveries with 7 fours in the 13th over of the innings.
However, in the first delivery of the 14th over, bowled by Wahab Riaz, Chandimal, trying to slog the delivery that pitched outside the off-stump, ended up giving a catch to Sharjeel Khan in the mid-wicket region.
Chandimal scored 58 runs off 49 deliveries with 7 fours and a six. He departed at the team score of 110/1.
Not to stay behind Dilshan, appearing in his 74th match (73rd innings), came up with his 12th T20I half-century off 42 deliveries with the help of 7 fours and 1 six in the 17th over of the innings.
He held on to one end and kept the score-board ticking, with wickets falling at the other. Losing Jayasuriya (4), Kapugedera (2), Shanaka (0) in a span of two overs, Dilshan kept on scoring and remained unbeaten on a well made 75 runs off only 56 deliveries, studded with 10 fours and a six.
Mohammad Irfan was the most successful bowler for Pakistan, picking up 2 wickets in his spell of 4 overs, giving away 18 runs.
Speaking at the innings break, Dilshan said, “This knock was important for me, I needed some runs ahead of the World T20. Before this game, we tried too many things in the Power Play overs. Today, the plan was to just play normally. This wicket was a lot better than the previous ones. We knew if we had a good start, we could catch up later on. We”re 10-15 short, but if we can field well, we can stop them”.
Sri Lanka set a target of 151 runs for Pakistan.
It was a defendable total but the Sri Lankan bowlers, Thisara Perera and Jayasuriya went for big runs at an economy rate of 10.71 and 13 runs respectively. In fact Jayasuriya bowled only one over.
Not starting top well, Pakistan losing Mohammad Hafeez (14) in the middle of the fourth over at the team score of 23 runs, recovered well through the other opener, Sharjeel Khan (31) and the wicket-keeper, Sarfaraz Ahmad (38).
The duo put on a second-wicket partnership of 35 runs in 3.4 overs before Sharjeel departed.
Thereafter Umar Akmal, joined Sarfaraz and they both went on to add 36 runs in 5.4 overs, when Sarfaraz fell, trying to sweep, missing the length, ended plumb leg before wicket. Siriwardana did the damage.
Sri Lanka was still in the game with Pakistan requiring 57 runs from 42 deliveries at the end of 13th over.
Shoaib Malik joined Akmal at this stage. Runs were coming in singles unless in the 15th over, Akmal scored 16 runs (2, 4, 6, 4) off just four deliveries bowled by Siriwardane, bringing down the equation to 32 runs off 30 deliveries.
At the end of the 18th over, Pakistan needed 10 runs off 12 deliveries, which was always possible with the kind of form Akmal was in, with Malik playing ‘second fiddle’.
The pen-ultimate delivery of the 19th over bowled by Kulasekara was dispatched to the stands by Akmal, but, trying to repeat the same shot once again, found Thisara Perera, who, exhibiting excellent balancing and athleticism, threw his hand up and held on to the ball. Akmal was out, scoring 48 runs off 37 deliveries with 4 fours and 2 sixes.
Pakistan had drawn level with the Lankan score, needing just one run to ‘cross the line’.
Malik, pulling one off Perera in the 20th over, almost ended up giving a catch. Kulasekara failed to hold on while the batsmen crossed over and completed the run.
Pakistan won the match with four deliveries to spare.
For his exploits with the bat, Umar Akmal was awarded the Player of the Match.
Speaking at the post-match presentation ceremony, Akmal said, “”Credit to the captain, coaching staff and team management. Waqar showed me a motivational video before the match. That fired me up. We wanted to sign off with a win, good to see some rhythm to our game before the World T20.”
Losing skipper, Chandimal said, “Overall we played some good cricket. We were 10-15 short with the bat, that was the turning point in this game. It was difficult to grip the ball with this dew. Injuries are the main issues, we haven”t been able to get the best combination as a result. Hopefully players will recover in time”.
The former Lankan skipper and legend Kumara Sangakkara tweeted, “Disappointing to get only 150 after the start we got. Time now to take stock and reassess our squad to ensure the right combo for the T20 WC”.