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Shahid 'Boom Boom' Afridi, playing his 50th T20 international produced a dazzling all round display to help Pakistan square the 2 match T20 series 1-1. The seasoned campaigner shone with the bat, ball and on the field to annihilate hosts Sri Lanka. Electing to bat first, Pakistan got off to a horrendous start, slipping to 41/4 after which Afridi (52*) and Shoaib Malik(27) rebuilt the innings with a 68 run stand. Afridi's aggressive half-century took Pakistan to a respectable 122. Chasing under lights continued to be a difficult task on a sluggish track as Sri Lanka were bowled out for just 99. Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Sami snapped up 3 wickets apiece to plot Sri Lanka's downfall. Afridi followed up his batting heroics with impressive bowling figures of 2-17.
Sri Lanka, high on confidence after thrashing Pakistan in the first T20, squared off against the green army in the second and final T20 at Hambantota with the motive of sealing the series. The feeble Pakistan batsmen, who squandered a fine opportunity on Friday were keen to make amends and support their potent bowling attack. The luck of the toss sided with Pakistan and 'Professor' Mohammad Hafeez opted to bat first on a typical sluggish pitch.
The news in the Lankan camp was that the senior statesmen - Mahela Jayawardene and Lasith Malinga - were rested to accommodate young(er) turks, Chamara Kapugedara and Isuru Udana. Angelo Mathews, taking over the captaincy mantle from Mahela said that the management had its eyes on blooding talented youngsters, keeping in view the World T20 championship. Pakistan made a single edit with T20 specialist Yasir Arafat coming in for Umar Gul.
Nuwan Kulasekara drew first blood in his 2nd over by trapping match 1 topscorer Ahmed Shehzad plumb infront of the wicket for 6. Armed with the new ball, Kulasekara and Captain Mathews swung it appreciably and kept Pakistan on a tight leash. Hafeez and Khalid Latif ate up plenty of balls and failed to even manipulate the strike. Just before the close of the powerplay a freak run-out brought about the downfall of Latif (1). Hafeez's crisp straight drive ricocheted off Thisara Perera's finger and hit the stumps as Latif paid the price for backing up a long way. Pakistan crawled to an appalling 20-2 in 6 overs.Â·Pin-point accuracy was the key to Lanka's success.
Isuru Udana inaugurated his second coming to the Lankan team with a maiden. It was that kind of the day where the Lankan bowlers could do no wrong. Kaushal Lokuarachichi struck with his first delivery to consume Umar Akmal for 5.Pakistan dug their own grave by turning a blind eye to the stagnant status of the innings. Pakistan, who played out 60 dot balls in the tour opener had not learned from their errors. The mounting pressure got the better of Hafeez and heÂ·succumbed to Lokuarachichi for a 34-ball 24.Â·The onus was on Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik to bail Pakistan out of trouble.
Afridi loosened the shackles thanks to a couple of powerful heaves over extra cover. Malik, using his feet expertly joined the act by virtue of 3 fours off Lokuarachichi in the 15th over. Thankfully for the green army,Â·the duo resurrected the innings and infused impetus into the comatose run rate.
Boom Boom Afridi, batting with freshness and freedom found the fence with regularity. The counter-attacking partnership left Sri Lanka stunned.Â·The hosts' insipid fielding did not help their cause either. The ever-reliable Dilshan dropped the dangerous Afridi in the penultimate over. The very next ball Dilshan pouched Malik(27) to halt the momentum shifting 68 run stand. There was no dearth of excitement as Afridi closed out the 19th over with a clean six over Thisara Perera's head. The nippy Kulasekara though prevented Pakistan from breaching the 130 mark. Nonetheless, Afridi's undefeated 52 ensured that the Pakistani bowlers had something to defend.
Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan got the hosts off to a decent start. Dilshan, gleefully accepting Yasir Arafat's loosners cut the ball mercilessly. Against the run of play, Sanga fell to an avoidable shot. Surprisingly, pinch-hitter, Kulasekara was bumped up the order. The experiment backfired as he was dismissed for nought. The 29 year old's wild slog was grasped easily by Malik at cover-point. Arafat, inflicting the early- breakthroughs tightened things up to keep the contest alive. Sri Lanka had posted 31 runs for the loss of the aforementioned two wickets in 6 overs.
The spinners came on, and Afridi reaped instant benefits and tilted the balance in Pakistan's favor by bowling Dilshan(18) with an arm ball. The tag team of Afridi and Saeed Ajmal plugged the flow of runs. Kapugedera, surviving a couple of close lbw appeals off Afridi was like a cat on a hot tin roof. The hero of the evening, Afridi (who else) undid Kapugedera(19) by firing in a lethal slider. The allrounder capped off his spell with returns of 2-17.
The new man, Lahiru Thirimanne greeted Hafeez into the attack with an effective inside-out shot over extra cover. Thirimanne milked the Pakistan bowlers and exuded confidence. However, Tanvir's clever drop in pace got rid of the steady Dinesh Chandimal for 12 to put Pakistan ahead in the game once again.
Soon after, the Karachi express Mohammad Sami engineered a double blow to dismiss Thirimanne (18) and Perera (0) in the 17th over. Both batsmen had no answer to Sami's sheer pace. The implosion showed no signs of abating as Ajmal had Lokurachichi stumped, also naught.
The Lankan innings didn't last long after that, and the hosts fell shy of the target by 23 runs. Fittingly, Afridi completed the formalities with an outstanding low catch off the bowling of Arafat.
The action now shifts to the 5 match ODI series that begins with the first ODI at Pallekele on Thursday, June 7.
Sri Lanka: T Dilshan, K Sangakkara(wk), D Chandimal, L Thirimanne, C Kapugedara, A Mathews(c), T Perera, N Kulasekara, I Udana, K Lokuarachichi, S Senanayake
Pakistan: A Shehzad, M Hafeez(c), S Malik, U Akmal, K Latif, S Ansar(wk), S Afridi, S Ajmal, S Tanvir, Y Arafat, M Sami
Pakistan 122-6 (20 overs, 6.10 rpo)
S Afridi 52*(33) N Kulasekara 2-13
S Malik 27(26) K Lokuarachichi 2-31
Sri Lanka 99 all out (19.2 overs, 5.12 rpo)
C Kapugedara 19(23) M Sami 3-16
L Thirimanne 18(19) Y Arafat 2-16
Pakistan won by 23 runs and level series 1-1
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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