Sri Lanka did most things right on Saturday (August 1) with bat and ball in the second and final Twenty20 International and yet ended up suffering a heartbreaking one-wicket defeat to Pakistan.
With the win, Pakistan completed a 2-0 sweep of the T20Is and a superb treble on the tour, much to the dismay of a raucous crowd at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo.
Opting to bat, Sri Lanka rode on fine contributions from Shehan Jayasuriya (40) and Chamara Kapugedera (48 not out off 25) to put up a competitive 172 for 7 in 20 overs.
The bowlers then had the situation in control for much of the chase. But Shahid Afridi’s breezy 45 off 22 balls and a manic 17-ball 46 from Anwar Ali that few saw coming took Pakistan to 174 for 9, helping it win with four balls to spare.
When Anwar walked in, Pakistan needed 66 to win from 35 balls with just three wickets remaining. If Sri Lanka was riding high on the confidence of having dismissed a dangerous Afridi, Anwar changed the complexion of the innings in no time.
Sri Lanka bowled too full and the attempt to snare the tailender with the yorker went horribly wrong as it sent down a string of hittable deliveries.
Imad Wasim stuck around with Anwar and put on 58 for the eighth wicket. When Anwar fell in the 19th over to Lasith Malinga, there seemed to be another twist in the tale. But Wasim sealed the game with a six off Binura Fernando to finish on 24 not out off 14 balls — a telling contribution that was put in the shade by the heroics of Anwar.
Before Anwar, it was Afridi who created a flutter in the Sri Lankan camp as the bowlers dropped it short to the Pakistan captain, who pulled with minimum fuss and got into the groove quickly.
When Sri Lanka hit the right lengths, Afridi managed to pierce the gaps and kept the scorecard ticking. Thisara Perera broke Afridi’s 61-run sixth-wicket stand with Mohammad Rizwan, foxing the latter with a slower ball that cleaned up the batsman. Shehan Jayasuriya, the offspinner, then had Afridi, who was bowled after failing to connect a wild slog.
Earlier in the innings, it was Fernando who snared both the openers in his second over to push Pakistan to the backfoot. Two run-outs of Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal followed and Shoaib Malik was stumped to leave Pakistan tottering at 40 for 5.
Sri Lanka looked the favourites at the time, but as it turned out, Pakistan’s lower order batsmen had a few aces up their sleeve.
When Sri Lanka began, it went hard from the outset. Kusal Perera was his usual domineering self and dispatched a couple of balls with authority, while the odd chancy boundary wasn’t missing either. Yet a wicket never seemed too far away.
That opportunity came knocking when Tillakaratne Dilshan offered a straightforward chance to short mid-wicket, but Hafeez dropped the catch. Fortunately for Pakistan, Dilshan was dismissed for 10.
Not one to curb his attacking instincts, Perera followed suit in the next over when Malik breached the defence of the charging batsman and the ball crashed into the offstump.
Jayasuriya, the debutant, then unleashed some crisp strokes in a well-constructed knock of 40. He began by attempting to quietly rebuild in the company of Dhananjaya de Silva, adding 29 for the third wicket in 28 balls. De Silva hen fell to the wily Afridi.
Jayasuriya propelled the innings with a few firm hits, clearing the front leg and using the long handle effectively before he holed out to Sohail Tanvir at short extra cover.
The newly-returned Chamara Kapugedera led the late charge as Sri Lanka plundered 54 runs in the last four overs. Kapugedera broke the shackles with a six over long on off Tanvir, who was taken for 11 before 16 came off the next by Anwar.
Mohammad Irfan removed Milinda Siriwardana, who had played second fiddle in the 65-run sixth-wicket stand, but the dismissal hardly put the brakes on the scoring. Kapugedera followed up with a four and a six before the entertainment ended with 13 more off Tanvir’s last. But on the night, his efforts were reduced to a mere sideshow.