Champions Trophy 12th Match: Sarfraz stars as Pakistan come from behind to eliminate Sri Lanka and book spot in semi-finals

Sarfraz exults after hitting the winning runs

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

Pakistan’s hopes of reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals seemed to be fading when they were reduced to 162/7, but captain Sarfraz Ahmed ensured that didn’t happen as he clubbed an unbeaten 61 help his side defeat Sri Lanka by three wickets.

Sarfraz was well supported by left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir, with whom he shared an unbeaten 75-run partnership. The match-winning stand not only got Pakistan across the finish line, but also booked them a semi-final showdown with England on Wednesday.

Choosing to bowl first, Pakistan struck in the sixth over as Junaid Khan got rid of Danushka Gunathilaka for 13.

However, Sri Lanka fought back through a 56-run partnership between Niroshan Dickwella and Kusal Mendis.

Mendis ended up making 27 before he was clean bowled by Hasan Ali, while Dinesh Chandimal failed to trouble the scorers as he was cleaned up by debutant Fahim Ashraf.

Dickwella and captain Angelo Mathews stabilised the innings with a 78-run partnership, during which Dickwella brought up his half-century, before Mathews was clean bowled by Amir for 39.

Dickwella struck his fourth half-century in ODI cricket

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

Dhananjaya de Silva only mustered one run, while Dickwella went on to make 73 off 86 balls, which included four boundaries, before he was caught behind off the bowling of Amir.

Thisara Perera fell shortly after, but Asela Gunaratne and Suranga Lakmal kept Pakistan at bay for a while with a 46-run partnership.

Once Lakmal was cleaned up by Hasan for 26, Gunaratne, who made 27, followed not long after.

Sri Lanka ended up being bowled out for 236 when Nuwan Pradeep was caught and bowled by Ashraf for one run.

Hasan and Junaid picked up three wickets apiece, while Amir and Ashraf snapped up two wickets apiece.

Chasing 237 to win, Pakistan got off to a great start as Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali put together a 74-run partnership, during which Zaman registered his fifty.

Zaman scored his maiden ODI fifty

Image courtesy of: Zimbio

However, Zaman was unable to add another run to his score as he was removed by Pradeep for a career-best 50 off 36 balls, which included eight boundaries and a six.

Babar Azam only made 10 runs before falling to Pradeep, while Mohammad Hafeez mustered one run before he was sent packing by Thisara Perera.

Azhar went on to make 34 runs before he was caught by Mendis at first slip off the bowling of Lakmal.

Shoaib Malik, who was playing in his 250th ODI, fared no better as he was caught behind off the bowling of Lasith Malinga for 11.

That was to be Sri Lanka’s last taste of success as Sarfraz and Amir took advantage of some lacklustre fielding to amass an unbeaten 75-run partnership to lead their side to victory with 31 balls to spare.

Sarfraz finished on 61 off 79 balls, which included five boundaries, while Amir remained undefeated on 28 off 43 deliveries, which included one boundary.

Pradeep was the most successful bowler with three wickets, while Thisara, Malinga and Lakmal claimed one wicket each.

Mathews was gutted to miss out on the semi-finals and said: “A see-saw kind of a game. Credit should go to Pakistan. They held their nerves and are deserved winners. It was a bit of a funny wicket. We hadn’t got the runs on the board but we knew we could defend this. And the bowlers did their job, but we didn’t hold on to our catches.

“Proud of the boys. Even though we only had 236 to defend, they gave it their all. Unfortunately, we missed a few chances. In a big tournament like this, they fought hard. I’m proud of them.”

Sarfraz, who was named Man of the Match, was over the moon to have progressed to the semi-finals, and said: “First of all, thanks to the Almighty. I can’t believe it. Thanks to Amir, he played really well. I just told him to play his game and not to worry about the score. If we took it to the 40th over we would win. Drop catches are part of the game. Allah helped us and that’s why Pakistan won today.”

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