Imam debut ton guides Pakistan to 7 wicket win and series

By Srian Obeyesekere reporting from Abu Dhabi

Pakistan made light of the 209-run target for the loss of 3 wickets in 42.3 overs propelled by a dream century by debutant Imam-ul-Haq who made exactly 100. Pakistan’s first 50 came off 9.3 overs before losing the wicket of Fakhar Zaman with the total on 78. The wicket was claimed by off spinner Jeffrey Vandersay who lured the batsman to play and miss for wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella to take off the bails.

It brought the inform Babar Azam, fresh from his century in the previous match as he joined Imam-ul-Haq who had reached his half century,  steering Pakistan past the hundred mark by the third delivery of the 24th over. At 114 for 1 wicket Pakistan was in virtual control requiring a further 95 for victory. By the 25-over k halfway mark Pakistan was on 124 for 1 with 21-year old debutant  Imam-ul-Haq on 66 off 84 balls having struck 3 boundaries and Azam on 23 off 30 inclusive of one boundary.

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Sri Lankan skipper Upul Tharanga kept rotating his bowlers using as many as five introducing spin option Milinda Siriwardena as the fifth bowler in search of a further breakthrough. Sri Lanka did strike again when things looked bleak to get rid of Babar Azam when paceman Lahiru Gamage bowled him for 30 off 39. Pakistan was on 148 for 2 off 29. 1 overs requiring 61 to win. The 150 came in 30.1 overs. The high riding Imam-ul-Haq  180/2 35th over By the 40th over Pakistan was 199 for 2 with Haq, who had survived a caught behind catch at 85 on the review off Dushmantha Chameera, two short of a debut century. The close call came when Haq, who was ruled out by the head umpire, got a reprieve on the review replay that left some doubt whether the ball touched the ground when Dickwella scooped the ball one handed.  He went on to reach his century off 124 balls with 5 fours and 2 sixes in the 42nd over, but was out two balls later caught by Dickwella off Thisara Perera at 203 for 2.

Taking first lease after winning the toss, Sri Lanka was all out for 208 in 48.2 overs letting slip the initiative of a healthy 102 at the halfway mark of 25 overs following a productive 59-run first wicket alliance between skipper Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella in 10.5 overs. The loss of 4 wickets in the space of 39 runs precipitated the collapse.

Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella gave Sri Lanka a flying start of 45 for no loss in 8 overs in the third day-night match against Pakistan at the Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi Wednesday. Tharanga was in full composure accounting for two thirds of the runs unbeaten on 31 off 29 balls and striking 4 crisp boundaries. Dickwella was on a sedate 11 off 19 with one boundary. Playing his 26th innings, Dickwella needed 76 more to clip Roy Dias’ record as the fastest to 1000 ODI runs which the latter reached in 27 innings. He proceeded to hoist Sri Lanka’s 50 in the next over with a nice boundary off  Rumman Raees, and then played an improvised boundary over slips on the of second change bowler Hasan Ali, but fell next ball to a mistimed drive and edging it on to his stumps.  Dickwella made 18 off 26 inclusive of two boundaries falling short by 69 of the 1000 milestone. Sri Lanka 59 for 1 wicket. But Sri Lanka continued to attack posting 66 in 12 overs at a run rate of 5.50 with Dinesh Chandimal slotted in the pivotal No.3 slot for the discarded Kusal Mendis, struck a boundary off Hasan Ali. By the 15th over it was 69 for 1 with Tharanga on 42 and Chandimal on 5. The apparent Sri Lankan ploy was to have the stoic textbook batsman Chandimal as a cushioning foil with Tharanga going strong at the other end. The initial bout belonged to Sri Lanka despite losing Dickwella. After 17 overs Sri Lanka 75 for 1, Tharanga 45, Chandimal 8. Chandimal plodded on to 11 off 30; 81/1 in 18.1. Tharanga, batting with great aplomb moved to his fifty in the first ball of the 21 over off  51 with 5 hits to the ropes; 87/1. Sri Lanka moved to 92 by the end of the 22nd with Tharanga on 55 off 66 and Candimal on the reverse gear 15 from 40. Chandimal survived an LBW review off Shadab Khan before Tharanga hoisted Sri Lanka’s hundred in the third ball of the 25th over rolling the ball for a single off Mohammad Hafeez.  The run rate at the half way mark was 4.08; Tharanga 59 from 76, Chandimal 19 from 48. But soon after Pakistan struck with Khan trapping Candimal in the first ball of the 26th over and it was 102 for 2. However, the 43-run partnership leveraged Sri Lanka towards a healthy total.

But Pakistan changed the complexion of the game claiming 4 wickets in the space of 39 runs as Sri Lanka precipitated to 141 for 6 in 35.4 overs losing  Tharanga for 61, Chamara Kapugedera  for 19, Milinda Siriwardena  for 2 and Jeffrey Vandersay for a duck. Tharanga undid all the hard work sweeping at a half pitched delivery to lob a lollypop catch to Fakhar Zaman for 61 off 80, 5×4 by the 27th over. It gave Shadab Khan his second wicket.  After 30 overs Sri Lanka on 123 for 3.

Kapugedera and Lahiru Thirimanne added 25 in even time for the fourth wicket  before Kapugedera was caught and bowled by Hasan Ali for 18 off 30 with two boundaries; 137 for 4 in 33.4 and Milinda Siriwardena lasted two balls caught by Zaman off Junaid Khan; a bad run for Siriwardena failing to reach double figures in three innings as Sri Lanka slipped to140 for 5. Vandersay was caugh by Safraz Ahmed off Hasan Ali; Sri Lanka 141 for 6 off 35.4 overs. The 150 came up in the first ball of the 40th over from a single by Thirimanne who moved to 22 off 35 with Thisara Perera on 4. But Pakistan continued the momentum dismissing Thirimanne who made 28 off 45, and Akila Dananjaya in the space of one run to make it 163 for 8 in 43.1 overs. A 42-run ninth wicket partnership between Thisara Perera and and Dushmantha Chameera took the total to 205 when Chameera went for 10 in the fifth ball of the 47th over. Whatever hopes of bolstering the total in the last two overs went with Perera running himself out for 38 off 37 containing 5 boundaries with Sri Lanka all out for 208 in 48.2 overs. Hasan Ali claimed 5 wickets for 34 off 10 overs.

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-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-