Sri Lanka continued their dismal run in the Asia Cup after they lost to Pakistan by six wickets at Dhaka.
The latest loss comes after India absolutely smashed them and left Captain Jayawardene frustrated and confused.
Captain Jayawardene, blamed the batting collapse for the loss. “The argument [about the Sri Lanka batting being top-heavy] can go both ways. If we [seniors] bat in the middle order, the day we go, there will be no one in the middle order. The youngsters will learn from these mistakes. When we click at the top, we finish off games” he said.
Jayawardene won the toss and elected to bat first, stating that if the team got runs on the board, it would be a good way to keep Pakistan under pressure.
However, as the Sri Lankan innings started, Jayawardene may have wanted to reconsider his decision to bat first, as Pakistan removed four of Sri Lanka’s top batsmen with only 65 runs on the board.
Looking in absolute disbelief at the top order collapse of his team, Jayawardene, was praying for a miracle partnership that would at least give the Sri Lankans a decent total to defend.
Wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakkara and Upul Tharanga, answered their Captain’s prayers, as they put together a vital 96 run partnership to re-energise the Sri Lankan innings.
However, when Tharanga departed after a brilliant knock of 57, Sangakkara was forced to watch, in absolute horror, as batsman after batsman came and almost immediately were on their way back to the pavilion.
Sangakkara, knowing that the innings now rested in his hands, tried to do everything he could to push Sri Lanka to a respectable total.
However, he was bowled out after attempting a lofted drive and was disgusted with himself as he took the long walk back to the pavilion. But, he had boosted Sri Lanka’s hopes with a gritty innings of 71.
After Sangakkara was dismissed, the Pakistan bowlers absolutely ripped through the Sri Lankan lower order, bowling them out in no time at all.
Aizaz Cheema was the pick of the Pakistan bowlers, as he took four wickets. Saeed Ajmal, who snapped up three wickets, and Umar Gul, who chipped in with two, helped support Cheema, as Pakistan restricted Sri Lanka to a rather dismal total of 188.
Cheema, who was awarded the Man of the Match award for his outstanding spell, said: “I was under lot of pressure but captain came to me and said bowl attacking deliveries and don’t worry. With the new ball, I thought it would come on to the bat even if I bowled the slower one, so I kept it for later. The kind of start they got against me, I thought there is no way out. But the captain and Shahid Afridi supported me.”
Knowing they had the upper hand, Pakistan were looking confident as their openers, Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed walked out to the crease to chase their target of 189.
But, Sri Lanka would not go down without a fight, as the struck early in the Pakistan innings to remove both openers cheaply.
Pakistan were further hurt by the loss of veteran batsman Younis Khan, who fell to a good catch, leaving Pakistan three down with only 33 runs on the board.
Just as Sri Lanka were looking to turn the game around with a miracle comeback, Pakistan Captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal, started to rebuild the early damage that Pakistan had sustained and together they seemed to drain the fight out of the Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders.
Jayawardene was starting to get nervous as the partnership continued to grow, just like the Gambhir and Kohli partnership when they played against India, and yet again, he had no idea what to do, other than to try different bowling options.
Even though he threw everything he could, Akmal and ul-Haq were not bothered by it, as they were determined to see Pakistan to the end of the match.
The pair both made half centuries, and it was only until Pakistan needed four runs to win the match, did Sri Lanka gain the breakthrough they so badly wanted.
Akmal was the man dismissed on 77, as he and ul-Haq put together an amazing partnership, worth 152 runs.
Pakistan soon finished off the match, with Captain ul-Haq remaining unbeaten on 72, and started the celebrations, leaving Sri Lanka looking absolutely disgusted with themselves.
Suranga Lakmal took two wickets for Sri Lanka, as Seekkuge Prasanna and Farveez Maharoof both claimed a wicket each.
Captain Jayawardene, thought that his team were outplayed by a better opponent today. “Batting first we felt 250-260 would have been a good score, we had a good start, but we lost too many wickets and exposed our lower middle order. I thought the Pakistanis bowled really well. They had a much better game than us today” he said.
Pakistan Captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, was extremely pleased and praised his team for the win, saying: “It was a really good partnership between me and Umar Akmal. I told him to play his normal game, the runs automatically came. Cheema was hit for a lot of fours in his first couple of overs. I told him your main weapon is aggression, so bowl with aggression, No point containing batsmen on these pitches, best to take wickets. It was important for me to get my confidence back, England series was not good for me, so this innings is a confidence booster. We have to be more consistent with the bat, the bowling is always keeping us in hunt.”
With yet another victory, Pakistan will be looking forward to their next match against rivals India, when the two nations clash on the 18th of March at Dhaka. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, will be looking to regroup, as they face Bangladesh on the 20th of March at Dhaka as well.