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By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Mar 8, 2014
Having lost three early wickets to Lasith Malinga, not many would have expected Pakistan to score 260 in their Asia Cup 2014 final encounter against Sri Lanka. It was a day dominated by Fawad Alam, who scored his maiden One-Day International (ODI) century and resurrected the innings with Misbah-ul-Haq. Some late hitting by Umar Akmal eventually powered them to that score. Sri Lanka had their tails up early in the innings, but were deflated as the innings progressed.
Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat, making two changes to their side. Sohaib Maqsood and Abdul Rehman made way for Junaid Khan and Sharjeel Khan. Sri Lanka, quite surprisingly, dropped Ajantha Mendis from their side as Malinga returned.
Malinga, coming into this game after a skipping the last league encounter, was in top form early on. When Sharjeel pushed two out of the first three deliveries off the back-foot through extra-cover for fours, one felt that the surface would live true to its reputation and the batsmen would make merry. However, Sharjeel lofted the last ball of the first over straight into the palms of mid-on.
It just got worse for Pakistan. Ahmed Shehzad, the man fresh from a ton against Bangladesh, edged to the wicketkeeper with minimal footwork to a good-length Malinga delivery. In his third over, Malinga had Mohammad Hafeez edging to Kumar Sangakkara in similar fashion. So, it was left to Misbah and Alam to rescue them from there.
It is interesting to watch Alam and Misbah play in tandem. Both are very cool at the crease and are willing to take their time. While Misbah is the more orthodox batsman, Alam has that Chanderpaul-like walk towards the wicket during his stance. Bringing in all their grit, they set off on a rescue mission. Both nudged it around the wicket the ran their singles. The boundaries were few and far in between.
In the 21st over, Misbah flayed at one from Angelo Mathews, with a sound as the ball past the bat and was taken by Sangakkara. Sri Lanka erupted in joy even as Mathews continued to appeal. The umpire turned it down then and a close-up on Misbah just showed how relieved he was. Thanking his stars presumably! At that stage, he was only on 19 and Pakistan had merely ambled to 56 for three.
But, that was when the shift in gears came about. The first sign of some intent came in the next over when Misbah moved across his stumps and smashed Thisara Perera for a six over mid-wicket. Alam punched the next ball of the next Mathews over to complete their 50-run stand. As the spinners, Sachithra Senanayake and Chathuranga de Silva came on, the Pakistani pair reworked their strategies and pushed for more singles. They scored 48 runs in the nine overs the spinners bowled in tandem in the middle.
In the 31st over, Misbah got his fifty by sweeping de Silva twice — once through fine-leg and then through square. The partnership moved past 100 when Alam swung Suranga Lakmal across the line and smashed him for a six over long on. Alam immediately brought up his fifty thereafter with a single. He had consumed 91 balls to achieve the mark. At 138 for three in 36 overs, both Misbah and Alam were looking set to charge.
Misbah had just smashed Senanayake for a six over mid-wicket, but then tried to attack Malinga, when he returned for the batting powerplay. Eyeing long–off, as the fielder was inside the ring, he tried to go over the top to an overpitched delivery. Instead, he only managed to loft it to long on.
Umar Akmal then came in and signaled his intent with a few boundaries. Alam also accelerated as Pakistan moved into the slog overs. While Alam was in the 80s, Pakistan moved past 200 in the 45th over.
Alam kept trying to smash through the off-side. On 92, he tried to smash Malinga over cover, but was dropped by de Silva. Akmal then smashed Malinga in that over as Pakistan took 15 off the 47th. Alam, on 94, smashed Perera over mid-wicket for a massive six to get to his milestone. Before the start of the game, he had hit only three sixes in ODIs, two of which came against Bangladesh in the last game. He had moved to 50 in 91 balls, but took only 35 balls to get his next milestone. Akmal got to his fifty off 35 balls with a deft touch through third-man off Perera. The 48th over went for 17 as the pair put up a 100 run stand in just over 11 overs.
Malinga did ensure that Sri Lanka finish on a bit of a high. In the last over, he had Akmal caught as he got a top-edge while trying to clear the ground. It meant that Malinga had taken his second consecutive five-for against Pakistan. Akmal’s 59 off 44 balls had played a huge role in helping Pakistan score 101 in the last ten overs. Alam finished unbeaten on 114.
Pakistan 260 for 5 in 50 overs (Misbah-ul-Haq 65, Fawad Alam 114*, Umar Akmal 59; Lasith Malinga 5 for 52) vs Sri Lanka.
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