Pakistan 299 for 5 (Fakhar 76, Abid 74, Haris 56, Pradeep 2-53) beat Sri Lanka 297 for 9 (Gunathilaka 133, Shanaka 43, Amir 3-50) by five wickets
A rapid half-century to Abid Ali, a measured one to Fakhar Zaman, and a finishing fifty for Haris Sohail, sent Pakistan to their target of 298, with five wickets in hand, and 10 balls remaining. The result handed Pakistan a 2-0 series victory in Karachi.
The opening stand between Abid and Fakhar, worth 123 off 117 deliveries, had set up the chase, before a further 58-run partnership between Fakhar and Babar Azam consolidated it. At no stage did Pakistan appear at serious risk of not achieving their target. Sri Lanka’s bowling was doughty, but not penetrative enough to prevent a defeat, even struggling batsmen such as Sarfraz Ahmed making contributions to the Pakistan innings. The hosts needed a little over a run a ball through much of the final 15 overs, but they had so many wickets in hand, ensuring the match was always in their control.
Sri Lanka had batted serenely for much of their own innings however, their 297 for 9 set up by a handsome 133 off 134 deliveries by opener Danushka Gunathilaka, before Dasun Shanaka produced a fast finish with 43 off 24 balls. Lahiru Thirimanne and debutant Minod Bhanuka had contributed 30s as well, but the bowlers did not have the firepower to defend what was a competitive total.
Nuwan Pradeep took 2 for 53 in his 9.2 overs, but the other frontline fast bowler – Lahiru Kumara – went at 7.85 an over, while left-arm wristspinner Lakshan Sandakan had an economy rate of 6.2. With Lasith Malinga now retired from ODIs, and Akila Dananjaya banned for a year over his action, Sri Lanka’s struggles on the bowling front have become especially worrying.
Sri Lanka had had hope of pulling off a series-levelling win after their innings, but although the first over of Pakistan’s reply was a maiden, and the second brought only two runs, once Abid Ali got going – with successive boundaries off Nuwan Pradeep in the third over – his rate of advance did not relent until he was well past fifty, and his team were a third of the way to their target. He was outstanding through the leg side in particular, with eight of his ten fours, and 52 of his eventual 74 runs scored in that half of the field. In one sequence, between the seventh and tenth overs, he hit six fours in the space of 12 deliveries faced.
While Abid was crashing Pakistan to a flying start, Fakhar was feeling his way to a second half-century in as many matches. He targetted the off side more, hitting 42 runs there, out of his eventual 76 off 91 balls. Abid had produced the impetus for the chase, but Fakhar helped provide some substance. He was out ramping Pradeep straight into the hands of third man, two overs after the same bowler had trapped Babar lbw for 31. Despite the doubtle-strike, Pakistan did not stutter, thanks largely to Haris, who made 56 off 50 balls, batting nicely in partnership with Sarfraz, and then Iftikhar Ahmed. Haris lost concentration and was bowled by Shehan Jayasuriya with 11 runs still to get off 14 deliveries, but this equation proved no challenge for Iftikhar, who hit a six an a four off successive wayward Pradeep deliveries in the 49th over.
The best individual innings of the game, however, had come from Gunathilaka, who struck elegant boundaries against the new ball to move to 28 off 27 balls at the end of the first Powerplay, then collected singles and twos effortlessly once the field spread.
His 88-run second-wicket partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne, who made 36, was the best of the innings. But Gunathilaka also forged fifty-run stands with Angelo Perera and debutant wicketkeeper-batsman Bhanuka. Only Bhanuka, who hit 36 off 39 balls before being run out, contributed more to one of those stands than the Gunathilaka did.
This was the second century of Gunathilaka’s ODI career, reached off the 100th delivery he faced. But did not lose concentration after reaching the milestone, despite obviously having tired in the Karachi heat. It was not until the 45th over in which he’d be dismissed, making room and missing a Mohammad Amir yorker. He had hit sixteen fours and a majestic six over long-on off Wahab Riaz through the course of his 134-ball stay. Shanaka, who hit five fours and two sixes was Sri Lanka’s next-highest scorer.
Full report to follow