Hasan Ali alongside Rumman Raees finished with 3 wickets (Image courtesy: Getty)
Hasan Ali alongside Rumman Raees finished with 3 wickets (Image courtesy: Getty)

From the Champions Trophy triumph to a T20I series win over World XI, Pakistan have further stamped their dominance as a limited-overs side as they beat Sri Lanka in the first ODI of the five-match series. This is Pakistan’s fifth consecutive win in ODIs. Having lost both Tests to a rebuilding Sri Lankan side, Pakistan came back strong at Dubai to cruise a win by 83 runs to take 1-0 lead. Babar Azam’s sixth hundred and Shoaib Malik’s 40th fifty in this format propelled their score to 292 before the bowlers, led by the stocky Rumman Raees, took charge.

With both Tests in pocket, Sri Lanka would have liked to avenge their Champions Trophy defeat against the trophy holders, but their efforts fell flat. They did manage to get off to a brisk start courtesy Niroshan Dickwella’s 13-ball 19; they had raced to 30 in the fourth over before Dickwella was caught at the crease and poked a Raees delivery to skipper Sarfraz Ahmed behind the stumps.

Dinesh Chandimal followed next, and this time the left-arm pacer trapped the senior cricketer plumb. Chandimal tried his luck with DRS, but it was too straight for his and Sri Lankan fans’ liking.

Thirimanne’s consistency

Raees would come later to remove the well-set Lahiru Thirimanne for 53. The southpaw’s return to national side may not have changed the side’s fortunes, but there are positives to look up to. Thirimanne’s consistency raised concerns throughout the fraternity. The 28-year-old has now marked his return to this format with 3 fifties from 4 games.

Not all was lost for Sri Lanka when Kusal Mendis walked out to bat. They were 55 for 3 in the 13th over and given his talent and constant comparisons with Aravinda de Silva, the occasion was good enough for him to step up.

He perished trying to pull a skiddy short delivery from Hasan Ali that climbed and cramped him for room. Hasan did not mind giving the batsman a vocal send-off. He better watch out. The umpires have the coloured cards in their pocket and may as well flaunt it.

Hasan cleaned up Milanda Siriwardana the next ball, and first ball of his next over Thisara Perera thwarted his hat-trick plans by crashing a wide delivery through the cover. However, the Thisara show lasted 29 balls and cost Pakistan 21. He fell trying to hit Shadab Khan out of the attack.

Sri Lanka were reduced to 132 for 7 after Thirimanne’s dismissal before a frustrating partnership ensued. Akila Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay registered their respective highest scores and delivered some late blows to help Sri Lanka salvage some pride.

Hasan eventually broke the 68-run eighth-wicket stand with a short ball that followed Vandersay and kissed his bat to the gloves of the keeper. Meanwhile, after some good drama of not getting strike, Dananjaya got to his maiden half-century off the penultimate ball of the match.

Babar-Shoaib stand defies Sri Lanka

Two days short of his 23rd birthday, Babar Azam further strengthened his reputation as an ODI batsman when he slammed his sixth hundred in his 32nd match. Sri Lanka invited Pakistan to bat and struck early dismissing Ahmed Shahzad for nought.

Babar built healthy stands with Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez and later Shoaib to take Pakistan in a strong position.

The 16th over of the innings witnessed a battle between Dananjaya’s guts and Zaman’s aggression. Zaman looked for a slog off the first ball and did not connect. The next ball was a slider and the southpaw managed to get his bat down on time. Then the boom. Dananjaya paid for the extra flight as Zaman smacked it to 82 metres away, executing a perfect slog-sweep. Then comes the googly, which beat the batsman in the air and off the surface to find its way to the timber.

After the 64-run stand with Zaman, Babar Azam weaved another steady 49-run stand with Mohammad Hafeez. The latter did the bulk of the scoring before departing in the 28th over for 32.

This united Shoaib and Babar at the crease, and there was no stopping since. Pakistan did have their stroke of luck. Babar attempted a paddle off Dananjaya in the 32nd over; the ball had kissed the keeper’s gloves but umpire called it wide. The confident Sri Lankans had wasted their review earlier and could not use their DRS. 

To inflict more woes, a few balls later Shoaib deposited Dananjaya over long-on to bring up his 100th six in ODIs. There was no stopping Shoaib. He blazed to his 40th ODI fifty in his 253rd appearance. He belted a 61-ball 81 in the 139-run fourth wicket stand that came off just 114 balls much to the glee of his wife Sania Mirza who cheered every stroke off the Pakistani stalwart’s willow.

Shoaib looked set for his 10th century in this format but fell while trying to accelerate in the 47th over. They went on to lose 3 wickets in a span of 8 balls when Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar fell trying to slog the Sri Lankan bowlers out of the park. Suranga Lakmal finished with 2 wickets, but Imad Wasim and Hasan Ali denied Sri Lanka any advantage and ensured Pakistan breached the 290-mark.

Malik, for his brisk knock and tight bowling (5-0-19-0), won the Man of the Match award.

While Pakistan have now won 5 ODIs in a row, Sri Lanka have extended their defeat streak to 8 in a row. Two back-to-back defeats against Zimbabwe, then a 0-5 whipping by India and now a loss at Dubai have added to their miseries. 

Brief scores:

Pakistan 292 for 6 in 50 overs (Fakhar Zaman 43, Babar Azam 103, Shoaib Malik 81; Suranga Lakmal 2 for 47) beat Sri Lanka 209 for 8 in 50 overs (Lahiru Thirimanne 53, Akila Dananjaya 50*; Rumman Raees 3 for 49, Hasan Ali 3 for 36) by 83 runs.

Man of the Match: Shoaib Malik