Sri Lanka holds nerves to level series

Ahmed Shehzad has been able to avoid extended lean spells with the bat in his 37-match One-Day International career till now, thanks to that determination and, after a duck and an 11 in his past two innings, the 22-year-old scripted his second three-figure score in four matches and the fourth century of his One-Day International career.

Anchored by his 124, Shehzad’s highest score in international cricket so far, Pakistan posted 284 for 4 after being asked to bat. But Sri Lanka, who came agonisingly close to winning the first game, prevailed by three wickets in a wildly swinging finish in Dubai on Friday (December 20) to level the five-match ODI series.

Kumar Sangakkara (58), who became only the fourth batsmen to cross 12,000 runs in ODIs when he reached 29, was the architect of the win, yanking the spotlight from Shehzad with a masterclass in controlled aggression.

Sri Lanka seemed to be cruising with Sangakkara at the crease, reaching 153 for 2 from 30 overs and needing a further 132 from the remaining 20 overs. But Sangakkara was then bowled off the bottom edge by Saeed Ajmal following a 93-run partnership for the third wicket with Dinesh Chandimal (44) in the 32nd over.

There were a few hiccups after his dismissal though.

Junaid Khan castled Chandimal and Thisara Perera in successive overs and Sri Lanka slipped from 159 for 2 to 173 for 5. It needed 85 runs from the last ten overs, but the 19-run 42nd over by Sohail Tanvir turned the game back in Sri Lanka’s favour.

Nuwan Kulasekara’s dismissal for 32 in the 43rd over raised the hopes of the Pakistan fans once again, even though Sri Lanka needed only 49 from 42 balls at the end of the over with Angelo Mathews still at the crease.

Junaid brought them further cheer, uprooting Seekkuge Prasanna’s stumps, but Mathews (47) and Dimuth Karunaratne (15 not out) kept their calm to take Sri Lanka across the line with two balls to spare, Sachithra Senanayake putting the finishing touches to the win after Mathews was bowled by Shahid Afridi in the final over.

(Courtesy: International Cricket Council)