Malinga inspires Sri Lanka to get better of Pakistan
by CricketArchive Staff Reporter

Ground:Rangiri Dambulla International Stadium, Dambulla
Scorecard:Sri Lanka v Pakistan
Player:Shoaib Akhtar, SL Malinga, Shahid Afridi
Event:Asia Cup 2010

DateLine: 15th June 2010


Pakistan and Sri Lanka kick-started the Asia Cup 2010 in one of the most perfect ways as the hosts got better of Pakistan by 16 runs. The stars of the day were the Pakistani skipper Shahid Afridi and Lasith Malinga. Afridi scored a fighting century to give his team a real chance while Malinga removed five Pakistani wickets to pave way for his team's win.


It was no-brainer as Sangakkara elected to bat first on a pitch that was flat. Shoaib Akhtar bowled with verve and purpose on an unresponsive wicket to help Pakistan restrict Sri Lanka to 242 for nine. For the Lankans, Mahela Jayawardene (54) and Kumar Sangakkara (42) came up with useful knocks but it was Angellow Matthews' unbeaten 55 off 61 balls that took the defending champions near the 250-mark.


Sri Lanka could have folded up for a much lesser total had Jayawardene and captain Sangakkara not raised 83 fighting runs for the third wicket. The hosts were in a spot of bother at 36 for two when the two most experienced and accomplished batsmen in the side came up with the rescue act. Though runs came at a trickle, Sangakkara and Jayawardene applied themselves to the task to beat back the strong Pakistan challenge in front of a motley crowd. As long as Sangakkara, who fell to a smart over-head catch at short mid-wicket by Umar Akmal off Shahid Afridi, and Jayawardene, who was trapped in front by off-spinner Shoaib Malik, were at the square Lanka seemed headed to a score of over 250.


But their exit close on the heels of each other plunged the Lankans into another crisis. Shoaib Akhtar worked up speeds in the region of 140 KMPH plus but was far from his menacing best as he lacked rhythm and fitness, indicating that he could possibly break down during the course this four-nation tournament. Akhtar bagged the scalps of Upul Tharanga, who was snaffled at first slip by Salman Butt, Chamara Kapugedara and Farveez Maharoof. Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara (14) braved the mounting odds to post 43 runs for the eighth wicket but they could not break out of the shackles.


Pakistan in reply got off to the worst possible start as they lost the top order with literally nothing on the board. Salman Butt was done in a Malinga special while the two debutants, Hasan and Umar Amin, then had little idea what to do. The pair failed to rotate the strike and pressure mounted. A sharp bouncer from Malinga ended Amin's misery while Shoaib Malik edged Mathews behind. Hasan holed out to mid-on, off the bowling of Mathews as Pakistan crumbled.


Afridi came out and smashed the bowlers around with such aggression that Sri Lanka looked stunned. It was not all out attack as the responsibility of captaincy began to tell on him. Afridi put his head down for one of his responsible knocks, displaying discretion. Afridi kept finding gaps for ones and twos and Umar followed his captain's method. Afridi took calculated risk against Muralitharan and that worked well. Finally Umar fell as he went for a non-existent single and was run-out but not before adding 70 runs with his skipper. Kamran Akmal too played a good hand before he was also a victim o run-out.


Afridi meanwhile was struck by some cramps but he hobbled along to score a brilliant century. It looked as if Afridi would take his side home but Muralitharan who was taken to the cleaners by Afridi had the last laugh as he removed him. The Pakistani innings lost the steam an though Razzaq tried his partners were no match for the Malinga storm that was unfolding in the middle.



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