January 21, 2009

Pakistan overcome Sri Lanka’s friendly fire with remarkable ease


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Was there any element of surprise in the proceedings or the result of the first One-day International between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the National Stadium, Karachi, on January 20? My answer is no.

The unusually casual approach of the Sri Lankan cricketers might have caught some of the spectators or the viewers by surprise but to those having an insight into the game or well versed with the history of the game there was hardly anything unpredictable.

Historically the Sri Lankans have seldom taken the field in an aggressive frame of mind while encountering Pakistan. They have looked tigers and panthers against other opponents but that has hardly been the case when they are up against Pakistan.

Sri Lanka have indeed won matches against Pakistan but their intensity on the field has generally not been the same as the one they have had while combating fancied teams like Australia, South Africa and India.

Their performance or the lack of it in the first ODI also left one wondering if they would be using the ongoing three-match series as practice for the upcoming home series against India in which they would be expected to fire on all cylinders.

Sri Lanka have been taught some lessons in the first ODI. Their famed spin duo of Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis had a forgettable day against a not too formidable Pakistan batting line-up.

Muralitharan and Mendis had wreaked havoc among the most celebrated batting line-up of the world but they were treated like novices even by Pakistan’s new opener Khurram Manzoor.

Salman Butt, the more experienced of the home openers, made most of the friendly conditions to complete his unbeaten century that guided Pakistan to the most comfortable of victories. It was a cakewalk win for the hosts. They could not have asked for a better start to the series.

The Sri Lankans were outplayed in every department of the game in the opening one-dayer after a promising start. There was nothing wrong in the pitch and the conditions were ideal for batting. Mahela Jayawardene did his team a big favour by winning the toss.

Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillakaratne Dilshan got the visitors off to a flyer. They punished Pakistan’s new ball operators, Shoaib Akhtar and Sohail Tanvir. But they collapsed when the ball lost its shine and lesser mortals were pressed into service. Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar Anjum turned the tide decisively and Sri Lanka, for who looked capable of getting well over 300, had to struggle in reaching 200. None of the Sri Lankan middle-order batsmen dared taking the fight to the opposition and even the home spinners were allowed to return decent figures.  

But it was a different ball game for the champion spinners Muralitharan and Mendis, who are otherwise the most lethal weapons in international cricket. With Sri Lanka not possessing threatening fast bowlers it seems unlikely that their slow bowlers are going to create pressures on the Pakistan batsmen.

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