COLOMBO: The third ODI ended badly for Sri Lanka, whose cricket team were pummeled by 135 runs, but it was made worse by an outbreak of violence in the stands, which forced a half-hour suspension of play. Rocks were thrown inside the southeastern stand, and when offenders were evicted from the ground, projectiles were thrown from outside the stadium, through the back of the same, open stand. One of these rocks made its way to the field, and match referee Javagal Srinath suspended play until the situation was brought under control by authorities.
Sri Lanka’s on-field loss, meanwhile, was set up by a commanding Pakistan batting performance, featuring a lively opening stand, two brisk fifties from Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Hafeez, and a sprint at the death that lifted them to 316 for 4. Sri Lanka began losing wickets in the sixth over, and never appeared to have the measure of the target. They were all out for 181 in the 42nd over.
It was the hosts’ bowling that faltered first, however, as a bare-bones attack produced another insipid showing. Sri Lanka made no changes to an attack that features only two specialist bowlers, and relied on four allrounders to deliver the lion’s share of overs. Of the four wickets they claimed, two were run-outs. Malinga disappeared for 80 from his full quota, leaking 21 runs in his final over.
All of Pakistan’s batsmen made meaningful contributions but, batting from No.4, Sarfraz’s 77 from 74 balls ensured their early gains were consolidated, and that his team were well-set for the late dash.
Sarfraz was a dynamo at the crease, pilfering singles all around the wicket, and capitalizing on severe of errors of length. Equally adept against pace and spin, he scored at a run-a-ball at least against all bowlers except Angelo Mathews (seven runs off nine balls) and Tillakaratne Dilshan from whom he took six runs from seven deliveries. He might have provided the fireworks himself, had he not been run-out in the approach to the death overs.
Ahmed Shehzad prospered in the arc between midwicket and long-on early in Pakistan’s innings, crashing Angelo Mathews through that region off successive balls, while finding singles square either side of the pitch. Azhar Ali was not as aggressive, but was adept at turning the strike over. He became Pakistan’s fastest batsman to 1000 ODI runs when he creamed Lasith Malinga through square leg in the eighth over. Making use of muddled lengths from Sri Lanka’s seamers, the opening pair played and missed at one or two, but mustered a brisk scoring rate. They hit 55 runs from the first 10 overs, then 88 from the first 15. Though the occasional lofted stroke only just cleared the in-field, neither batsman seemed troubled by Sri Lanka’s new-ball bowling.
The hosts’ breakthrough came in the 17th over, thanks in equal part to a well-executed short-ball plan and careless batting from Shehzad. Mathews and Malinga packed the leg side, deploying three men in the deep and two close, catching, as Malinga sent his first two balls at the batsmen’s bodies.
Expecting another one at his ribs next, Shehzad seemed to play a pre-meditated pull shot, but couldn’t control his stroke when the ball came a little wider of off stump. He was caught by deep midwicket. Azhar also fell needlessly in the 24th over, when miscommunication with Hafeez found him well short of his ground on 49.
Hafeez’s knock was full of edges and mis-hits, but he chose his areas well, usually getting the ball to drop some distance from the fielders. Thisara Perera teased his outside edge with full-length deliveries occasionally but, as was the case with Nuwan Pradeep, could not build pressure on the batsmen for any length of time.
Hafeez enjoyed milking Sachith Pathirana’s left-arm spin, occasionally trekking down the surface to loft him straight or, more often, sliding back to turn him behind square. He was essentially the link-man between the two fast-paced ends of the innings and will be pleased to continue his good run with the bat, now that he plays as a specialist batsman.
Though Sri Lanka managed to control the flow of runs briefly, after Sarfraz’s exit in the 45th over, they were unable to prevent the final charge. Malinga, who had relied exclusively on slower balls for 13 straight deliveries, was brutally treated by Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Rizwan in the final over. The pair hit a six and three fours to finish the innings.
Sri Lanka’s opening batsmen were unable to reproduce their explosive success from Pallekele. Tillakaratne Dilshan holed out to mid-off for 14, and Kusal Perera was caught brilliantly by Sarfraz off Anwar Ali soon after. Lahiru Thirimanne attempted to get the chase back on track, but continued to lose partners. Upul Tharanga was stumped off Yasir Shah for 16 and Angelo Mathews ended a laboured 12-ball stay by sending a leading edge down long-off’s throat.
Thirimanne himself moved to a much-needed fifty, but when Dinesh Chandimal was dismissed soon after, leaving Sri Lanka at 130 for 5 in the 27th over, Sri Lanka’s challenge was virtually done. On a turning track, Yasir ended up taking two more scalps to finish with 4 for 29, while Anwar Ali and debutant Imad Wasim, who bowls left-arm spin, had two apiece.
Rioting crowds also forced cricketers to retreat to their dressing rooms as projectiles reached the outer field of the Premadasa Stadium .
The hosts, chasing Pakistan’s 316-4, were struggling at 158-7 in the 34th over when the disturbances at the grounds in the Sri Lanka capital forced the umpires to order the players to their dressing rooms until the situation was brought under control.
No players were hurt, and the match resumed after a nearly 20 minute delay.– Agencies