Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Hafeez was named Man of the Match for his scintillating century
Pakistan all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez hammered a spectacular century to help his side to an 11-run win over Sri Lanka in the first ODI in Sharjah.
Hafeez was well supported by Sharjeel Khan and Shoaib Maqsood, both of whom scored half-centuries, to help Pakistan draw first blood in the five-match ODI series.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq won the toss and chose to bat first.
However, his decision didn’t go according to plan as opening batsman Ahmed Shehzad was given out lbw off the bowling of Suranga Lakmal for only 11 runs.
Shehzad wanted to review the decision, but since he took such a long time to make up his mind, he had run out of time when he finally called for the review and, as a result, he had to return to the pavilion.
Hafeez and debutant Sharjeel Khan made up for the early loss of Shehzad with a brilliant 83-run partnership, during which Khan brought up his maiden half-century, before being caught by Sachithra Senanayake at long-on off the bowling of Seekkuge Prasanna.
Khan’s impressive innings of 61 came off 61 balls and included six boundaries and three sixes.
Hafeez and Maqsood kept the runs flowing with an outstanding 140-run partnership, during which Hafeez registered his sixth ODI century and Maqsood his half-century, before Maqsood was run out for 73.
Maqsood’s excellent knock of 73 came off 68 balls and included two boundaries and four maximums.
Pakistan veteran all-rounder Shahid Afridi smashed a quickfire 34 off 12 balls, which included two boundaries and three sixes, before being clean bowled by Thisara Perera.
Just a few overs later, Hafeez was on his way back to the pavilion after being caught by Dinesh Chandimal at midwicket off the bowling of Lakmal.
Lakmal was the pick of the Sri Lankan bowlers with two wickets, while Perera and Prasanna snapped up one wicket apiece as Pakistan finished on 322/5 at the end of their 50 overs.
Chasing a mammoth 323 to win, Sri Lanka got off to an impressive start as their opening pair of Kusal Perera and Tillakaratne Dilshan put together a 66-run partnership before Dilshan hit a delivery from Junaid Khan right to Hafeez at deep square leg.
Perera managed to bring up his half-century before being given out lbw off the bowling of Hafeez for 64, which is his highest score in ODIs.
Perera decided to call for a review, but the replays showed that the ball was hitting the top of middle stump, which led to the third umpire upholding the original decision.
Sri Lanka wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara failed to make an impact with the bat as he was caught behind off the bowling of Afridi for 23.
Afridi struck just a few overs later as he removed Lahiru Thirimanne for just 10 runs when he was brilliantly caught by Maqsood.
Chandimal and Sri Lanka skipper Angelo Mathews stabilised the innings with a 73-run partnership before Chandimal was run out just four agonising runs short of his half-century.
Mathews was dismissed the very next over as he was caught by Sohail Tanvir at mid-off off the bowling of Khan for 31.
Thisara Perera could only amass six runs before hitting a delivery from Bilawal Bhatti to ul-Haq at cover.
Senanayake and Prasanna almost took the game away from Pakistan with an 87-run partnership before Senanayake was caught by the substitute fielder, Anwar Ali, off the bowling of Tanvir.
Lasith Malinga was dismissed the very next over as he was run out for a duck.
Just three balls later, Sri Lanka were bowled out for 311 when Prasanna hit a delivery from Junaid Khan to Sharjeel Khan at mid-off.
Khan was the most successful Pakistan bowler with three wickets, while Afridi picked up two and Hafeez, Tanvir and Bhatti chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Ul-Haq was pleased to have taken a 1-0 lead in the series, and said: “It was a much needed innings from Hafeez, Sharjeel a good prospect. We need to improve on the bowling and fielding, too many lapses. If the team is winning, I don’t want to bat.”
Despite being disappointed at having lost the match, Mathews praised his team’s heart and determination.
“We witnessed a great match, esp the stand between Seekkuge and Sachitra, very pleasing to see how they fought,” he said. “We knew that the dew would come into play so we were happy to chase. I thought it was still a pleasing performance so no need to panic.”
Hafeez was named Man of the Match for his breathtaking century.
“It was much needed for me, Maqsood batted well, Sharjeel started well,” he said. “I really wanted to do something in this game.”