Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Afridi was named Man of the Match for his spectacular innings
Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi’s late blitz with the bat helped his side to a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the first Twenty20 International in Dubai.
Afridi was well supported by Sharjeel Khan and captain Mohammad Hafeez as they put Pakistan in a strong position towards the beginning of their innings.
Hafeez won the toss and chose to bowl first.
His decision to do so almost paid off immediately as Sri Lanka opening batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan was caught by Ahmed Shehzad at point off the bowling of Sohail Tanvir for just seven runs.
Kusal Perera managed to score 15 runs before being given out lbw off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal.
Things went from bad to worse for Sri Lanka as captain Dinesh Chandimal was given out lbw off the bowling of Afridi for 22 runs.
Kumar Sangakkara could only amass 21 runs before he was caught by Afridi at short cover off the bowling of Ajmal.
Following Sangakkara’s departure, all-rounder Angelo Mathews took over as he put together a 58-run partnership with Lahiru Thirimanne, during which he brought up his half-century, before being caught by Sharjeel Khan at deep midwicket off the bowling of Tanvir.
Mathews’ outstanding knock of 50 came off 34 balls and included five boundaries and a six.
Sri Lanka eventually posted a total of 145 at the end of their 20 overs thanks to a quickfire 23 by Thirimanne.
Tanvir and Ajmal were the pick of the Pakistan bowlers with two wickets apiece, while Afridi chipped in with one.
Chasing 146 to win, Pakistan got off to a poor start as Shehzad was caught by Thirimanne at short cover off the bowling of Sachithra Senanayake for just four runs.
Khan and Hafeez made up for the loss of Shehzad with a 57-run partnership before Khan was caught by Dilshan at long-on off the bowling of Thisara Perera.
Hafeez scored 32 runs before being given out lbw off the bowling of Ajantha Mendis.
Following Hafeez’s dismissal, Pakistan’s middle order, with the exception of Afridi, collapsed under the pressure of Sri Lanka’s bowling attack.
Afridi led Pakistan across the finish line with five balls to spare as he finished unbeaten on 39 off 20 balls, which included two boundaries and three sixes.
Lasith Malinga was the most successful Sri Lankan bowler with three wickets, while Senanayake, Mendis and Perera all picked up one wicket apiece.
Hafeez was pleased to have started the series on a winning note, and said: “The boys really showed character, and we were looking for a good start, so the boys got that for us. We went into the middle and tried a couple of things, with the young players.
“In this game Shahid Afridi was brilliant. It’s always difficult to set a total here, so that’s what I was thinking. We had three spinners in the team, so we had the dew on our minds as well.”
Afridi was named Man of the Match for his late blitz.
“Pakistan won and I’m very happy for that,” he said. “I have to mention Mohammad Hafeez, who was not feeling well but still he played for the country. We had good support from the crowd. The bowling was good, but I want to be more consistent in my batting.”