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The Sri Lankans opened their home series against Pakistan with a crushing 37 run victory in the first T20. In a low scoring contest, Sri Lanka's late surge with the bat and flawless bowling turned out to be the difference. Batting first on a tricky pitch where stroke-play was difficult, Sri Lanka recovered from being in some early strife to post a competitive 132. After Sohail Tanvir ran through the Lankan top order thanks to an incisive spell (3-12), Lahiru Thirimanne (30) steadied the Lankan innings with some smart cricket. Pakistan surrendered to the power of Thisara Perera and lost the plot at the back end of the innings. Perera smashed his way to an enterprising, undefeated 16-ball 32. In pursuit of 133, Pakistan never really got going and lost wickets at regular intervals. Ahmed Shezad, who top scored for the guests with a battling 36 hardly received support from his compatriots. The Sri Lankan bowlers shared the spoils to apply the skids on Pakistan's chase. The broad smile on Mahela Jayawardene's face at the presentation ceremony summed up the satisfaction of a job well done.
Pakistan's tour of Sri Lanka got underway today with the first T20 at Hambantota. With the T20 World Championship scheduled to blast off in September in the island nation, this 2 match T20 series provided the Asian giants a golden opportunity to zero in on the ideal combination for the World Cup. Incidentally, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka were inclined towards injection of young blood into the team and were keen to pass over the reins to the promising Gennnext cricketers. The series was tipped to be Sri Lanka's skillful batsmen vs Pakistan's varied bowling attack.
The toss of the coin went the home side's way and Mahela Jayawardene elected to bat first on a track that was expected to slow down as the game wore on. Meanwhile, Pakistan's new skipper, Mohammad Hafeez said that he was looking forward to the challenge. It was a day for comebacks. Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Mohammad Sami and Sohail Tanvir returned to the international arena after a long period of hibernation. An exciting encounter was well and truly in the offing.
Sohail Tanvir, showing no signs of rust, struck in the very first over to scalp the prize wicket of Jayawardene(2). It was a case of poor shot selection on the part of the veteran and Shoaib Malik stationed at cover just about managed to cling onto the steepler. The left arm speed merchant then united Tillakaratne Dilshan(5) with Mahela in his second over to leave Lanka in early strife at 11-2. Pushed to the wall, Kumar Sangakkara got the Lankan wagon up and running via 3 sparkling fours off Sami in the 4th over. There was no stopping 'Terrific Tanvir' though as he caused Sanga to chop one back onto the stumps. The former skipper had contributed a 12 ball 19 to the team's cause. At 36-3 in 6 overs, the wounded Lankan lions were in desperate need of a partership of note to resurrect the innings.
Tanvir, who was all over the Sri Lankans with his stinging seam movement completed his spell with figures of 3-12. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts as Sami disturbed Dinesh Chandimal's timber for 10. The Pakistan's troika of tweakers soon joined the party to tighten the screws further. Afridi's variety and Hafeez's discipline proved to be a tough nut to crack for Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne. The specialist spinner, Saeed Ajmal, coming into the fray in the 13th over ended Mathews' painful stay by clean bowling him for a snail paced 9.
The fighting Thirimanne, apart from being lightning quick between the wickets rang in a few much needed fours to harbour hopes of a competitive total. Sri Lanka finally loosened the shackles aided by a 12 run over off Hafeez.
The visitors engineered a double blow to drive a dagger through Lanka's slim hopes. Whilst Kaushal Lokurachichi (11) was run out by the keeper, Thirimanne(30) was undone by Ajmal's lethal doosra.
The new batsman, Thisara Perera wasted no more time and flexed his muscles to inaugurate the first maximum of the evening with a thwack over long on. The hard hitting Perera followed it up with a powerful boundary straight down the ground in the penultimate over. Perera(32*) and Nuwan Kulasekara(6*) looted 16 from the last over of the innings to push Lanka to a respectable 132-7, that seemed a pipe dream in the middle overs.
Nuwan Kulasekara launched Lanka's defense in an ideal fashion by removing Captain Hafeez(0) and Shakeel Ansar(0) off his first two deliveries. Both batsmen, guilty of slashing hard at wide-ish balls were caught safely by Dilshan at backward point. Early breakthroughs were just what the doctor ordered for Mahela and company.
Kulasekara, taking a leaf from Tanvir's playbook, derived zip and appreciable seam movement to keep Pakistan in check. In a rather debatable decision, Khalid Latif was handed a massive reprieve. While Mahela was convinced that he had grasped Latif's edge cleanly at slip, the TV replays did not give conclusive proof. Latif(3) failed to make hay and succumbed to the wily Mathews a couple of balls later with keeper Sangakkara taking a flying catch. Shoaib Malik joined Ahmed Shehzad with Pakistan at a shaky 23-3 in 6 overs. The powerplay once again belonged to the bowlers.
Thisara Perera, who had a brilliant outing with the bat, struggled with the ball, conceding 13 in his first over allowing Pakistan to relieve the pressure. Malik and Shehzad maneuvered the ball into the open spaces and kept the scoreboard ticking. The opening batsman welcomed Lokuarachichi to the attack by virtue of a thunderous pull. Just when the partnership was on the verge of blossoming, Perera, running across from third man and diving full length, pulled off a stunning catch to force Malik back to the hutch for 9, Mathews the benefactor. The Sri Lankan deputy captain made amends for his shoddy batting display by producing a parsimonious spell( 4-1-8-2).
Kaushal Lokuarachichi proved to be bread and butter for the green army. The returning Lasith Malinga though triggered the turn of the tide by dismissing the supremely talented Umar Akmal (12) with a lifter. The slide continued as Boom Boom Afridi (1) fizzled out to Senanayake in the following over. A needless mix up in the same over brought about the downfall of Tanvir (1). Pakistan, struggling at 71-7 were looking to Shehzad to guide them past the finish line.
Sri Lanka's agile fielding coupled with tight bowling hiked the asking rate to over 10. Senanayake delivered the death knell for Pakistan by taking down Shehzad (36) in the 16th over. The Pakistanis eventually folded up for 95, well within the stipulated 20 overs as the hosts romped home by 37 runs.
The Lankans will leave no stone unturned in their quest to seal the T20 series 2-0 and gain a huge upsurge of confidence ahead of the ODI series.The Pakistanis will have to chop and change their fragile batting unit if they are to give themselves a chance of squaring the aptly named Jazz T20 series.
Sri Lanka: M Jayawardene(c), T Dilshan, K Sangakkara(wk), D Chandimal, A Mathews, L Thirumane, K Lokurachichi , T Perera, N Kulasekara S Senanayake, L Malinga.
Pakistan: M Hafeez(c), A Shehzad, U Akmal, S Malik, K Latif, S Afridi, S Ansar(wk), S Tanvir, S Ajmal, U Gul, M Sami.
Sri Lanka 132-7 (20 overs, 6.60 rpo)
T Perera 32*(16) S Tanvir 3-12
L Thirimanne 30(25) S Ajmal 2-20
Pakistan 95 all out (17.4 overs, 5.37 rpo)
A Shehzad 36(42) L Malinga 2-12
U Akmal 12(10) N Kulasekara 2-13
Sri Lankan won by 37 runs
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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