Valiant captain’s knock by Upul Tharanga 112 not out cannot stave off defeat


By Srian Obeyesekere reporting from Dubai

A valiant unbeaten captain’s knock of 112 off 144 balls inclusive of 14 boundaries by Skipper Upul Tharanga’s could not lift Sri Lanka from a precarious 93 for 7 wickets as Pakistan won by 32 runs to take a 2-nil lead in the second day-night of 5 ODIs here at Abu Dhabi. Requiring 220 for victory at 4.38 an over, Sri Lanka walked the tight rope from 1 for 10 Niroshan Dickwella, 2 for 30 Kusal Mendis to 4 for 70 Lahiru Thirimanne by the 23rd over.

Skipper Upul Tharanga lived dangerously on 36 surviving some close calls including a dropped catch in the slips. Dickwella was LBW to Junaid Khan in the second ball of the third over of the innings while Mendis, reverted to the No.3 slot, departed for 10 with the total on 20 mistiming a pull to leg off Hasan Ali for a dolly catch to Shahzad. Lahiru Thirimanne and the captain tried to dig in shakily against some tight bowling putting together 40 runs for the fourth wicket before Thirimanne was trapped LBW by part time bowler Shoaib Malik for 12 as Sri Lanka catapulted to 70 for 3 in 22.5 overs. Next man in Dinesh Chandimal too tripped up bowled by Shadab Khan for 2; Sri Lanka 79 for 4 in 24.5 overs. At that stage Tharanga was on 45 off 84 balls having struck 5 boundaries and literally the one iron man to steer Sri Lanka requiring a further 141 for victory with 5 wickets intact. But Pakistan claimed the swift wickets of Milinda Siriwardena for 3 and Thisara Perera for 7 and Sri Lanka had slid to 83 for 6 just past the halfway mark in 26.1 overs. Tharanga, who had watched from the other end wickets tumble like nine pins, found his composure bringing up his fifty off 91 balls and his side’s 100 in the 32nd over. At the time he had struck 7 boundaries. But it came too late.

Upul Tharanga

Like Pakistan, Sri Lanka’s tail too began to wag with the Sri Lanka moving on to 147 for 7 in 40.5 overs, the skipper adding a useful 51 for the eighth wicket. Tharanga was on 86 off 122 balls having struck 12 boundaries with Vandersay on 15 off 42; a further 73 off 51 balls. At the start of the 41st over with Sri Lanka requiring 51 off 36 balls Vandersay fell in the fifth ball over making it 169 for 8. Suranga Lakmal lasts two balls for 1 run out and it is 172 for 9 in 45.3. Tharanga goes on to bring up a brilliant century in the next delivery and exactly 100 off 135 studded with 13 boundaries for his fifteenth three figure mark.

Pakistan recovered to 219 for 9 in 50 overs on the back of a seventh wicket recovery of 109 runs between Babar Azham who made 101 off 133 balls and 6x4and Shadab Khan an unbeaten 52 off 68  after pace man Lahiru Gamage and Tissara Perera bowled impeccably to share 6 wickets between them. Gamage accounted for top order wickets of Fakhar Zaman for 11, Mohammad Hafeez 8 to start the slide followed by Thisara Perera dismissing star batsman Shoeib Malik for 11 and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed for 5 as Sri Lanka had the 2017 ICC Trophy Champions tottering on 5 wickets for 79 in 20 overs and 101 for 6 in 27.3

Having lost the toss on a lively Abu Dhabi track, Sri Lanka struck swift treble blows to reduce Pakistan to 40 for 3 wickets by the 10th over. It was 27 for 2 by the seventh over in the second day-night ODI of the 5-match series here on a bright sunny afternoon in Abu Dhabi.

On a lively track favouring the side batting first due to the late dew advantage, Sri Lanka, 1-nil and badly in need of a win, drew first blood reducing Pakistan to 17 for 1 wicket by the third ball of the third over. The bowler was Lahiru Gamage who had Fakhar Zaman well held by a diving Kusal Mendis in the slips. Gamage had worked up a lively length and found just reward in the third ball of his second over to induce the adventurous Zaman to playing a false stroke and edge a good length delivery to leg slip. Sri Lanka continued the momentum to round off double blows making it 2 for 17 when Suranga Lakmal, who spearheaded the attack sending back Ahmed Shahzad  caught by Siriwardena by the third ball of his fourth over and the seventh in the match. Gamage accounted for the third wicket two overs later. By that time the right arm pace man had begun to generate venom bouncing the ball to good effect and had No.4 batsman Mahamed Hafeez edging one to wicket-keeper Niroshan Dickwella. Pakistan brought up its fifty by the 13th over when Babar Azam struck a boundary off first change bowler Jeffrey Vandersay. But Sri Lanka made it wicket number 4 and Pakistan had skidded to 4 for 71 in 17.1 overs with second change bowler Thisara Perera getting rid of the dangerous Shoaib Malik for 11 in his second over. Perera had Malik taken behind by Dickwella. Sri Lanka had wrested control by then. Perera was to clip Pakistan with double blows in successive overs and his fourth accounting for Pakistan’s Mr. Reliable skipper Safraz Ahmed for 5 off 14. Pakistan 5 for 79 in 20 overs, a run rate of 3.68 an over in precarious trouble. No.3 batsman Babar Azam was on a resolute 35 off 58 inclusive of 3 boundaries. In five overs Perera’s figures read 2 for 12 in 5 overs. Gamage’s were 2 for 32 in 7. Wholly, it marked a zip in Sri Lanka’s strides. The bowling was spot on and the fielding equally matching in calling the shots. Pakistan brought up their hundred in 27.2 overs, but Sri Lanka struck the very next ball to reduce the hosts to 101 for 6 when Vandersay, who had been bending his arm tidily, was rewarded scalping Imad Wasim for 10 off 26. Indeed, skipper Upul Tharanga was in his best act iwearing the big crown reading things well and rotating his bowlers accordingly to reap success as Sri Lanka closed in. 219/9 (50 Overs, RR: 4.38)

Pakistan fought back through the rearguard seventh wicket pair of Azam and Khan who brought up the 150 in 39.5 overs through a fighting 108 containing 5 boundaries, and Wasim on 19 off 38. In 41 overs Pakistan were 155 for 6. The seventh wicket alliance began to flourish between Babar Azam who had waded his way to a rearguard 73 off 108 balls. By the 45th over Pakistan was 183 for 6 with Azam on 90. The 200 came in the 48th over. Babar Azam fell caught Mendis b Gamage in the first ball of the 50th over with the total on 210.  Gamage had figures of 4 for 57 from his 10 overs, Perera 2 for 34 from 10 followed by Suranga Lakmal 1 for 42 from 10 and Vandersay 1 for 44 from 9.

Shadab Khan was Man of the Match.

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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-