Upul Tharanga fought a lone battle before Sri Lanka lost    Getty Images
Upul Tharanga fought a lone battle before Sri Lanka lost Getty Images

Pakistan bowlers edged past Sri Lanka in defence of 220 to go 2-0 up in the five-match ODI series in the UAE. Chasing a modest total, Sri Lanka were never in it courtesy early blows and Shadab Khan’s 3-for. However, Upul Tharanga‘s hundred kept visitors in the chase before he ran out of partners. This marks Pakistan’s sixth win on trot, and Sri Lanka’s 9th consecutive defeat their worst since 1999. Earlier, Babar Azam‘s 7th hundred, back-to-back as well, took hosts to a safe score.

Sri Lanka’s chase began on the wrong note. Niroshan Dickwella was expected to play his natural game and go all-out, but he departed for 3. Junaid Khan trapped him lbw. Kusal Mendis was promoted to his usual slot, No. 3, but the right-hander never looked in control. He was sledged by Hasan Ali, before playing a hook to be caught by Ahmed Shehzad.

Tharanga knew he had to steady the ship, but was fighting hard for survival. He was given few reprieves, survived close lbws, mistimed his strokes, but did not deter. Visitors were soon reduced to 93 for 7. The entrusted batters Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera and Milinda Siriwardene were sitting back in the hut.

Tharanga did not change his approach. He carved out a patient innings, found momentum and an able ally in Jeffrey Vandersay. Together the duo added 76 runs for the eighth wicket to stay in the hunt. Sarfraz Ahmed was seen agitated with the partnership brewing. Finally, Rumaan Raees got rid of Vandersay (20) in the 45th over.

Tharanga kept battling hard and notched up his 15th hundred. His strike rate improved drastically with the required run-rate mounting up. Nonetheless, his effort fell short from taking Sri Lanka home. The damage was long done with Shadab’s breakthroughs which rocked visitors’ progress. In the end, few run-outs cost them the match by 32 runs.

Earlier, Pakistan opted to bat and posted 219 for 9. They were tottering at 79 for 5 before Shadab and Azam stitched a 109-run stand. They ensured Pakistani bowlers had a decent total on a batting track. Sri Lanka pacers bowled much-better; to be let down by their batsmen.

As a result, Pakistan outplayed dew and defended a small total amidst Tharanga’s lone battle.

What they said

Sarfraz: The match position was such that I had to be harsh on the players. But the boys understand the situation. We didn’t bat well today and collapsed. Shadab showed his composure and Azam has been playing well. No praise is enough for Shadab. He has to adjust to the Test level and he is still a youngster, he will only improve with experience.

Tharanga: The bowlers bowled really well to keep them to 219. If we had hung on with the bat, it became easier. Thirimanne’s wicket was the turning point. The spinners made use of the track pretty well. Vandersay batted well and supported me. It is a good moment for me but disappointed that we lost the game.

Shadab: I was not getting opportunity to bat and I thought today was my first and last chance to shine with the bat. It was just a simple plan to bat out 50 overs. We are bowling well in tandem and we were confident of defending the target. In the team meeting we had discussed to bowl the googly to Chandimal. My aim is to win the player of the series. I bowl according to the situation.

Brief scores:

Pakistan 219 for 9 in 50 overs (Babar Azam 101, Shadab Khan 52*; Suranga Lakmal 4 for 42, Thisara Perera 2 for 34) vs Sri Lanka 187 all-out in 48 overs (Upul Tharanga 112*, Jefferey Vandersay 22; Shadab Khan 3 for 47, Mohammad Hafeez 1 for 24, Hasan Ali 1 for 31) by 32 runs.

Man of the Match: Shadab Khan