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Kumar Sangakkaraâ€™s 97 led the way as Sri Lanka put up a modest 243-8 on the board after a slow start in the 4th ODI at Colombo. Pakistan in response lost a couple of wickets and were in a spot of bother when opener Azhar Ali and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq resurrected the innings with a 113 run partnership. With Pakistan seemingly coasting to victory, man-of-the-match Thisara Perera came on to deliver his patented knockout punch, picking up four wickets in an over, including a terrific hat-trick. Perera's heroics with the ball and the allround excellent of the Lankans in the field ensured that their visitors submitted meekly and Sri Lanka won by a comfortable margin of 44 runs to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
With the sun shining, Mahela Jayawardene, the Lankan skipper, won the toss and elected to bat first. He stated that they had all their bases covered at the moment and Upul Tharanga would continue to open the batting with Tillakaratne Dilshan to counter Sohail Tanvir's angle. Misbah-ul-Haq, his Pakistani counterpart, shared that he had no qualms about fielding first as the weather was unpredictable. Both sides remained unchanged from the abandoned 3rd ODI. For these two ODIs, reserve days were allocated just in case a result was not possible on the match day.
Tharanga took strike against Umar Gul, and ended the first over with a cut shot that reached the fence. In Gulâ€™s very next over, the Lankan left hander nicked one to Younis Khan at second slip failing to add to his score. Sohail Tanvir and Gul finished five overs each and were miserly as usual with three maidens between them. Former skipper's Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi bowled first change, and they did a decent job as Dilshan and Kumar Sangakkara played cautiously to take the home side to 58-1 at the end of 15 overs.
The bowling powerplay was taken after that and it saw the introduction of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez into the attack. Hafeez struck with his very first ball and got Dilshan out LBW for 24 as the Lankan completely missed a sweep shot and was trapped in front of the stumps. Dinesh Chandimal walked in and his poor series continued as a straighter one from Hafeez kept a little low and hit the off stump to dismiss him for 18, a knock that included a couple of boundaries. Before Hafeez could finish that over, a slight shower stopped play with the score at 91-3 in 25.4 overs. With the rain only getting heavier a long break seemed likely.
Play finally resumed after an hour long delay. Kumar Sangakkara was fortunate to still be around as a mistimed shot to long on when he was on 35, found Gul, but the seamer made a mess of an easy catch. The batting powerplay was taken at the start of the 36th over and off the very first ball Sangakkara brought up his half century from a massive 99 balls. All hell broke loose after that as Sangakkara, now in the company of Mahela Jayawardene, bulldozed Ajmal and Gul to amass 49 runs in the powerplay period to take the home side to 174-3 at the end of 40 overs.
The skipper though was cleaned up on 40 by Sohail Tanvir with a yorker that uprooted his leg stump. Sangakkara, who had accelerated wonderfully in the latter stages of his innings to reach 97, soon followed suit as he did not get hold of a pull shot off Ajmal and was caught by a diving Azhar Ali running in from the boundary. Thisara Perera was sent in to hit some big shots but failed to cause much damage and fell for 8, top-edging a slog off Ajmal to Umar Akmal on the boundary. Lahiru Thirimanne hit a six and a four to reach 13 before a direct hit from Afridi sent him packing. In the last over, Tanvir cleaned up Nuwan Kulasekara for 3 with a length ball as the batsmen missed the ball trying to send it into orbit. Angelo Mathews remained unbeaten on 10 as the home side managed to put up a modest 243-8 in 50 overs.
Lasith Malinga applied pressure on the visitors straight away by dismissing Hafeez for yet another duck as his pull shot could only reach Kulasekara at fine leg. Asad Shafiq then joined Ali and the two nudged the ball around while hitting the occasional boundary to keep the scoreboard ticking. Sajeewa Weerakoon soon had the chance to bowl in international cricket and he made full use of it as Shafiq(25) missed a straight ball and was trapped in front of the stumps to hand the Lankan his first international wicket in just his second over. Ali was batting with a strike rate of less than 50 as Pakistan crawled to 58-2 in 15 overs.
Misbah-ul-Haq and Ali added 20 runs in the bowling powerplay and took their total slowly to 100 at the end of 25 overs. Ali eventually reached his half century off 95 balls in the 33rd over and then hit the first Pakistani six of the innings. Though their sluggish partnership did not hand the advantage to their side, it set up the chase nicely for the rest of the batsmen with the scoreboard reading 152-2 after 35 overs.
The very first ball of the batting powerplay saw the Pakistan skipper reach his half century with a couple that also brought up his century stand with Ali. The latter then survived a run out scare and the dive seemed to have caused some damage as he was limping around thereafter. The skipper though fell shortly after, dismissed by Malinga, caught brilliantly by Kulasekara at mid-off for a handy 57. Kulasekara then came on to knock over Umar Akmal for a duck as he edged one to the wicketkeeper. Younis Khan came in at No.6 and escaped a run-out chance caused due to Ali declining the single.
Then came Perera, bowling a superhuman over which took 4 wickets to effectively end all hopes of a Pakistan win. He first had Younis Khan caught behind for 1 off the second ball and then had Afridi taken at cover by Chandimal the very next ball to dismiss him for a duck. He then bowled a short of length ball which Sarfraz Ahmed (0) edged to Jayawardene, the lone slip fielder, who completed a good catch to his left helping Perera get his hat-trick. Perera wasnâ€™t done yet as his underarm throw at the strikerâ€™s end caught Sohail Tanvir well short off his crease to bring an end to a manic over.
Angelo Mathews had Gul caught behind for nought the very next over. Saeed Ajmal hit a boundary before being dismissed by that man Perera again as his uppish drive off a slower ball was caught by a diving Thirimanne at mid-off. Ali remained unbeaten on 81 off 126 balls but it wasnâ€™t enough to stop the Lankans from winning comfortably by 44 runs.
The late burst by Perera ensured a Lankan victory handing the hosts an unassailable 2-1 lead going into the last match of the 5 ODI series which will be played at the same venue on Monday, June 18th. While the hosts will try to complete the annihilation of the Pakistanis in the next game, the visitors will try to regain some pride by winning the last game to share the honors in the ODI series, just like they did in the T20 Internationals.
Sri Lanka: M Jayawardene(c), T Dilshan, K Sangakkara (wk), D Chandimal, L Thirimanne, U Tharanga, A Mathews, T Perera, N Kulasekara, L Malinga, S Weerakoon
Pakistan: M Hafeez, A Ali, Y Khan, A Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq(c), U Akmal, S Afridi, S Ahmed (wk), U Gul, S Ajmal, S Tanvir
Sri Lanka 243-8 (50 overs, 4.86 rpo)
K Sangakkara 97(130) M Hafeez 2-37
M Jayawardene 40(50) S Tanvir 2-43
Pakistan 199 all out (45 overs, 4.42 rpo)
A Ali 81*(126) T Perera 4-42
Misbah-ul-Haq 57(77) L Malinga 2-30
Sri Lanka won by 44 runs
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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