January 24, 2009

Sri Lanka finally play to their potential to pocket series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sri Lanka got into their elements in the last couple of One-day Internationals after horrible performance in the opening match. The moment visitors played to their potential there was no escape route for Pakistan.

The two massive wins recorded by Sri Lanka in the second as well as the third ODI confirmed that they were far superior outfit and their defeat in the first ODI was one of those things that one may not be able to justify purely in cricketing terms.

The Sri Lankans simply bulldozed Pakistan when they did look serious after the debacle in the first one-dayer at the National Stadium, Karachi, on January 20. They registered a comprehensive win at the same venue just 24 hours later and they annexed the three-match series with an even more emphatic victory in the third and final game at the Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore, on January 24.

Sri Lanka, after having failed to capitalize on the terrific start in the first two matches, opted to start off sedately and the acceleration was carried out at a later stage. The tactics reflected a lack of confidence in their middle-order batting that couldn’t fire in the previous two games.

Openers Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya were given the license to play themselves in and play out as many overs as they desired. Jayasuriya, who is known and feared for his attacking instincts, was content in playing out the early overs and he exploded far too late from his own high standards.

Jayasuriya, having played some destructive knocks in his long and illustrious career, threatened to stamp his authority once more when he got into Rao Iftikhar Anjum in the 15th over the innings. But very fortunately from Pakistan’s point of view he miscued a shot just when he looked in complete command of the situation

Dilshan did not repeat his mistake of giving it away after having done all the hard work. He took his time in reaching his half-century but he played much more freely afterwards to keep the score ticking over. He batted until the very end and his second ODI century covered the failures of the middle-order once more. It was mainly due to his unbeaten 137 off 139 balls that Sri Lanka managed to get to a score of 309 in 50 overs.
Sri Lanka looked to their opening bowlers, Nuwan Kulasekara and Thilan Thushara, once more and they rose to the occasion magnificently. Both of them swung the ball appreciably to capture three early wickets each to send Pakistan crashing to 22 for six in the ninth over. 

The result of the match and the series was never in doubt once the Pakistan top-order batting was blown away by the fast bowlers with the new ball. Umar Gul played some agricultural shots to delay the inevitable. His breezy knock saved Pakistan from the embarrassment of getting bowled out for the lowest-ever ODI score. It turned out to be a no contest as Sri Lanka completed a 234-run win.
The hosts were eventually all out for 75, the lowest ODI total at the ground that has been the scene of many high moments of the Pakistan cricket. 
The great off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan claimed his 500th ODI wicket when he castled Sohail Khan, playing his first match of the series.

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