Images courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Thirimanne soaks in the moment after scoring his century, while Malinga is ecstatic after taking a wicket
Sri Lanka opening batsman Lahiru Thirimanne scored a spectacular century and pace bowler Lasith Malinga took a five-wicket haul to help their side register a 12-run win over Pakistan in the first match of the Asia Cup.
Thirimanne and Malinga were well supported by wicketkeeper-batsman Kumar Sangakkara and captain Angelo Mathews as they both scored half-centuries.
Mathews would have been regretting his decision to bat first early on as opening batsman Kusal Perera was caught behind off the bowling of Umar Gul for 14.
Thirimanne and Sangakkara made up for the early loss of Perera with a fantastic 161-run partnership, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries, before Sangakkara was caught by Ahmed Shehzad at midwicket off the bowling of Gul.
Sangakkara’s brilliant knock of 67 came off 65 balls and included eight boundaries.
Thirimanne ended up scoring his second ODI century, but failed to convert it into a bigger score as he was clean bowled by Saeed Ajmal for 102 off 110 deliveries, which included 11 boundaries and a six.
Mahela Jayawardene only made 13 runs before he was cleaned up by Shahid Afridi.
Thisara Perera managed to make six runs before he was caught by Shehzad at deep midwicket off the bowling of Afridi.
Debutant Chaturanga de Silva scored two runs before he was run out by Shehzad.
Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal amassed an unbeaten 45-run partnership, during which Mathews registered his half-century, to carry Sri Lanka to 296/6 off their 50 overs.
Mathews finished on 55 off 50 balls, which included five boundaries and a six, while Chandimal remained undefeated on 19 off 19 deliveries, which included two boundaries.
Gul and Afridi picked up two wickets apiece, while Ajmal chipped in with one.
Chasing 297 to win, Pakistan got off to a poor start as opening batsman Sharjeel Khan was caught by Mathews at mid-on off the bowling of Suranga Lakmal after a quickfire 26.
Shehzad made 28 runs before he was clean bowled by de Silva.
All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez failed to have an impact with the bat as he scored 18 runs before being given out lbw off the bowling of Mathews.
Shoaib Maqsood did not fare any better as he was caught by de Silva at deep midwicket off the bowling of Sachithra Senanayake.
Wicketkeeper Umar Akmal and Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq stabilised the innings with a 121-run partnership, during which both batsmen brought up their half-centuries, before Akmal was caught behind off the bowling of Lakmal.
Akmal’s excellent knock of 74 came off 72 balls and included seven boundaries and three sixes.
Afridi only made four runs before he was caught by Chandimal at short cover off the bowling of Malinga.
Malinga struck again just two balls later when ul-Haq was caught by Senanayake at deep square leg for 73, which came off 84 deliveries and included four boundaries and two sixes.
Gul scored two runs before he was caught by de Silva at point off the bowling of Malinga.
Malinga picked up his fourth wicket when he clean bowled Ajmal for 10.
Just three balls later, Sri Lanka were celebrating their 12-run win as Bilawal Bhatti also had his stumps rearranged by Malinga.
Malinga recorded his sixth five-wicket haul, while Lakmal snapped up two wickets and Senanayake, de Silva and Mathews chipped in with one wicket each.
Ul-Haq was disappointed with his side’s performance towards the end of the match as he believed they had a great chance of winning.
“I think Umar [Akmal] batted really well, that was a crucial partnership,” he said. “At that time we had six wickets in hand and we should have won this game.
“He played a really sensible knock today, but played a rash shot and could not finish it.
“After the start they got, it was a really good effort to restrict them to 296. The way the pitch was playing, no turn, nothing for the fast bowlers. This should have been chased.
“There’s nothing better for a batsman than scoring runs and I hope I can do that more often.”
Mathews was pleased to have started the tournament on a high, but added that his side did not score enough, especially given the start they made.
“I still think we were 20 runs short considering the start Thirimanne and Sangakkara gave us,” he said. “But in the past we’ve won these close games and it was good to come out on top again.
“He [Thirimanne] is a great team man and he will get you runs anywhere. Malinga is the best bowler for us and has been in the past few years. Whenever we are under pressure he is our go-to man and he did it again.
“Well, maybe I’ll try to bowl more.”
Malinga edged out Thirimanne for the Man of the Match award, and said: “At the moment, not much good rhythm. Really happy to take the five wickets. Last two games and the first half of the game, [I] didn’t bowl too well. But, I used my variations and at the end we won the game. Not much dew today and I concentrated on my variations, slower balls, bouncers and at the end of the day, very happy we won the game.”