Sri Lanka must still be ruing sending asunder the semi final berth that was within sight, the villain being Thisara Perera dropping a straight forward catch at extra cover that would have swung the game Sri Lanka’s way with Pakistan on 197 for 7 in the 39th over off Lasith Malinga. In a dramatic see sawing contest that Sri Lanka had swung their way reducing Pakistan to 6 for 137 in 25.4 overs from a healthy 92 for 2 wickets, and 114 for 4 needing 237 to win, Malinga induced skipper Safraz Ahamed in a last gasp effort. But Perera momentarily held on to the catch that came at moderate pace, and let it out of his hands. With it went hopes of a Sri Lankan victory as the Pakistan captain continued to live dangerously being let off by Dhanushka Gunathilaka at mid wicket that was a diving but catchable effort. Dropped catches and erratic fielding with overthrows sadly negated the efforts of Sri Lanka’s batsmen and bowlers. Ahamed continued to live dangerously to take Pakistan to a 3-wicket win in 44.5 overs for a semi final play off against hosts England.
The decisive semi final play off on a Cardiff seaming wicket, the bottom line to getting to the victory post saw Pakistan’s fast bowlers produce some impeccable swing bowling that took on a torpedoing destructive air with Hasan Ali bowling Kusal Mendis through the gate for 27. Mendis lurched forward aiming for an off drive with Ali finding the slightest of gap between the bat that left Mendis gasping like pole axed. Two balls later, Dinesh Chandimal chased a ball outside the off stump to be bowled by a leaning edge off Fahim Ashraf. It was 82 for 2 at the time on a day opener Niroshan Dickwella was in good nick going on to top score with 73. Skipper Angelo Mathews did a good repair job adding 79 for the third wicket before paying the cardinal price for playing across to find his stumps disturbed by Mohammad Amir as Pakistan continued the momentum of lateral swing bowling to the hilt. Sri Lanka was reduced to 161 for 4 in 31.2 overs and precipitated to 162 for 6 in 33.1 overs by the fall off three quick wickets in the space of 11 balls – Dhananjaya De Silva (01) and Dickwella after a 86-ball occupation of the crease spanning 158 minutes and 04 boundaries. Asela Gunaratne (27) and Suranga Lakmal (26) shared in a last ditch 46-run 8th wicket alliance that brought back Sri Lanka in to the game with a decent defendable 236 on a pace friendly seaming wicket.
But poor fielding continued to haunt Sri Lanka that has been a cause for concern since the tour to New Zealand that extended to the world cup.
By Srian Obeyesekere
-The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sri Lanka Cricket-