DHAKA - Spirited performances by Lahiru Thirimanne (102) and Lasith Malinga (5/52) helped Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in the first match of the Asia Cup in Fatullah. Chasing a 297-run target, Pakistan seemed to lose the plot right at end at Sri Lanka bounced back with quick wickets to choke them in the opener.
Pakistan were given some respite by skipper Misbah-ul-Haq when he slammed a gritty fifty; however, he fell victim to Malinga soon after. Misbah, who reached his half-century in 62 balls with the help of 4 boundaries and a single six, also put up a steady 121-run stand with Umar Akmal. Akmal (74) too reached his 18th ODI half-century in the 41st over to take the partnership pass 100 runs before being dismissed by pacer Suranga Lakmal.
Misbah and Akmal helped revive Pakistan's run chase after they got off to a bad start as they lost their top order cheaply against Sri Lanka. The wickets started falling when Lakmal gave Sri Lanka the first breakthrough when he dismissed opener Sharjeel Khan (26). Sharjeel was caught comfortably at mid-on by skipper Angelo Mathews after the Pakistan opener mis-timed a short of length delivery. Pakistan then tried to get its run chase back on track courtesy a steady stand between Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez when the duo stitched a crucial 49-run partnership for the second wicket.
However, Chaturanga De Silva and Mathews struck in consecutive overs to send Shehzad (28) and Hafeez (18) back to the pavilion. Spinner Sachithra Senanayake then joined the wicket taking party when he scalped Sohaib Maqsood (17) by getting him caught at deep mid-wicket. Earlier, opener Lahiru Thirimanne notched up his second ODI hundred to power Sri Lanka to a challenging 296 for six against Pakistan.
Thirimanne hit 11 fours and a six in his 110-ball 102-run innings and starred in a 161-run stand with Kumar Sangakkara (67) for the second wicket to lay the foundation for a huge score at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium. Pakistan tried to make a comeback in the middle overs as they picked up a few wickets, before skipper Angelo Matthews provided the late charge, cracking a 50-ball 55, to take Sri Lanka close to the 300-mark.
For Pakistan, Umar Gul (38) and Shahid Afridi (56) picked up two wickets each, while Saeed Ajmal (1/50) took one. Electing to bat, Sri Lanka made a watchful start before opener Kusal Perera (14) edged an Umar Gul delivery straight to Umar Akmal behind the stumps in the eighth over to slip to 28 for one. However, Thirimanne continued his good run and notched up his fifty off 56 balls in the 20th over, his first half-century since last July.
He and first-down batsman Sangakkara ensured Sri Lanka suffer no more damage as the two left-handed batsmen amassed runs at good pace and took Sri Lanka to the 100-mark in the 20th over. The duo then changed gears, piling up 68 runs in the next 10 overs. Sangakkara, who has been in red-hot form, brought up his 84th fifty in as many balls in the 27th over when he blasted Mohammad Hafeez for a boundary through the midwicket area. In the 31st over, Thirimanne picked up Hafeez for special treatment as he sent him over deep midwicket to bring up the first six of the match and move into the 90s.
However, Pakistan came back into the match with Gul dismissing Sangakkara in the 32nd over when his miscued pull landed in the hands of Ahmed Shehzad.
Thirimanne brought up his hundred with a cover drive off Gul, but the Lankan opener could not stay longer as off-spinner Ajmal disturbed his off stump in the 36th over. Skipper Matthews, who had come to bat after Sangakkara's dismissal, plundered a four and six in consecutive balls off Ajmal in the 38th over.
But Sri Lanka suffered another blow in the next over when Shahid Afridi deceived Mahela Jayawardene and induced a thick edge from his bat which disturbed the off-stump. Afridi then picked up the wicket of Thisara Perera in the 43rd over when the spinner had him caught at deep midwicket as Sri Lanka slipped to 245 for five. Another mix-up in the middle and new batsman Chaturanga de Silva, too, had to walk back to the hut. Ajmal and Junaid bowled well at the death overs but Dinesh Chandimal and Matthews shared an unbeaten 45-run stand for the seventh wicket to ensure Sri Lanka reach close to 300.
K Perera c Akmal b Gul 14
L Thirimanne b Ajmal 102
K Sangakkara c Shehzad b Gul 67
M Jayawardene b Afridi 13
A Mathews not out 55
T Perera c Shehzad b Afridi 6
C de Silva run out 2
D Chandimal not out 19
EXTRAS: (b4, lb6, w8) 18
TOTAL: (6 wkts, 50 overs) 296
FOW: 1-28, 2-189, 3-204, 4-224, 5-245, 6-251
BOWLING: Hafeez 9-0-54-0, Gul 8-0-38-2, Junaid 9-0-61-0, Bhatti 4-0-27-0, Ajmal 10-0-50-1, Afridi 10-0-56-2
Sharjeel Khan c Mathews b Lakmal 26
Ahmed Shehzad b de Silva 28
M Hafeez lbw b Mathews 18
Sohaib Maqsood c de Silva b Senanayake 17
Misbah-ul-Haq c Senanayake b Malinga 73
Umar Akmal c Sangakkara b Lakmal 74
Shahid Afridi c Chandimal b Malinga 4
Bilawal Bhatti b Malinga 18
Umar Gul c de Silva b Malinga 2
Saeed Ajmal lbw b Malinga 10
Junaid Khan not out 1
EXTRAS: (lb3, w10) 13
TOTAL: (all out, 48.5 overs) 284
FOW: 1-28, 2-77, 3-83, 4-121, 5-242, 6-252, 7-254, 8-262, 9-281, 10-284
BOWLING: Malinga 9.5-0-52-5, Lakmal 9-1-65-2, Senanayake 9-0-47-1, de Silva 10-1-56-1, T Perera 6-0-36-0, Mathews 5-1-25-1
TOSS: Sri Lanka
UMPIRES: Johan Cloete (RSA) and Bruce Oxenford (AUS)
TV UMPIRE: Anisur Rahman (BAN)
MATCH REFEREE: Jeff Crowe (NZL)