The talk in town after the loss of the Sri Lanka v Pakistan 1st ODI held in Pallekale was that the Sri Lankan team was yet again going down with many criticizing the performance of the players. And so to put a stop to all that the Sri Lanka team bounced back and rose to the occasion winning the 2nd ODI held in Pallekale today by 76 runs.
Winning the toss again earlier in the day, Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardena elected to bat first wanting to put some runs on the board first. Sri Lanka went on with the same team that played the first ODI two days back while Pakistan had one change in their line up with Mohammad Sami out with an injury and Rahat Ali making his ODI debut.
Thilakaratne Dilshan partnered with his former opening partner Upul Tharanga today to open the Sri Lankan innings today showing signs of a much needed batting lineup change after recent matches. With gloomy clouds all over threatening the match, the opening duo were attacking all the loose balls they could get and kept going on until when during the 6th over was being played, rain interrupted the match for nearly 5 minutes when Sri Lanka were 28 for no loss at 5.4 overs. With the covers coming off, it was play time again. Sri Lanka lost their first wicket with 37 runs on board with opener Upul Tharanga tipping a ball of Sohail Tanvir to stumper Sarfraz Ahmed to be given out on 18 runs with 7 overs being played in the match. Dilshan and Tharanga put on a partnership of 37 runs off 44 balls for the first wicket and then walked in former skipper Kumar Sangakkara.
Sangakkara and Dilshan put up a sporty and entertaining fight for the 2nd wicket with one catch of Dilshan being missed and 3 run out opportunities being missed and of the 3, 2 being off the same delivery with confusion in the middle taking over. The pair had the batting all under control with scoring off the loose balls, when Sangakkara was caught and bowled by Mohammad Hafeez when he was on 18 runs bringing an end to the 47 run partnership they put on for the second wicket. Dinesh Chandimal walked in next to pair up with Dilshan for the 3rd wicket. Although the first Power Play of the match was fruitful for Sri Lanka, the bowling Power Play didn’t seem to be with only 9 runs being scored of the 5 overs with one wicket being lost which nearly put the breaks on the Sri Lankan innings until Dilshan and Chandimal restarted the scoring momentum. Ex Skipper Dilshan also scored his half century at this point with a boundary down the leg side off the bowling of Shahid Afridi. 70 runs were put on for the 3rd wicket by the two batsmen when Shahid Afridi was brought into the bowling attack and broke the partnership when Dinesh Chandimal was adjudged Leg Before Wicket scoring 32 runs and the scoreboard was updated to 153 for the loss of 3 wickets in 30 overs.
The Sri Lankan skipper Mahela Jayawardena who had demoted himself down the batting order in the batting order shake up for the match today walked in for the 4th wicket. Dilshan who was at this point on 74 runs, looked like he decided to hand over the attacking responsibility to the skipper and taking a little rest after having batted through nearly 30 overs in the game. Dilshan who played some responsible cricket today contrary to his usual aggressive type of batting, was the pillar of the Sri Lankan batting line up and with Mahela coming into the attack looked like he too wanted to make an impression in the game took on an aggressive method of batting trying to attack every ball possible which also worked for him this time around.
The skipper and the ex-skipper went on to play some quality cricket with both batsmen finding some sort of form after their repeated failures in the recent past. Both batsmen were quite lucky indeed during the 4th wicket partnerships with a few drop catches and a number of run out chances being missed. Dilshan with his calm batting style in this match which is a rare sight to see went on to score his century. This was Dilshan’s 13th ODI century and also it was a much needed innings for the Sri Lankan team as well as for him personally. Two overs after Dilshan reaching his century, current skipper Mahela Jayawardena also went on to get his 82nd ODI half century with a boundary off Saeed Ajmal which he got off 45 balls. Mahela’s innings was full of entertainment with a “dilscoop” also being played by him along with his classical shots which any cricket fan would love to watch. Unfortunately for Mahela, his innings and time of celebration was cut short when Saeed Ajmal came back strong the very next ball to bowl him out 53 runs bringing an end to the 4th wicket partnership at 86 runs scored off 88 runs with Mahela scoring majority of the runs.
In yet another surprise batting order shake up, Thisera Perera who played a cameo role in the recent matches was brought up the batting order ahead of Mathews and Thirimanne. With less than 5 overs left in the innings, yet another cameo innings by Thisera was eminent when he scored his first few runs with a boundary. With Dilshan batting for nearly 45 overs, the first six of the innings came in the 46th over by Dilshan off the bowling of Sohail Tanvir towards midwicket region. Two more sixes were scored in the Sri Lankan innings and both were by Thisera Perera along with another boundary which brought the Sri Lankan innings to an end with 50 overs being bowled and the scoreboard reading 280 for the loss of just 4 wickets with Dilshan scoring 119 runs not out and Thisera Perera scoring 24 runs not out with 2 fours and 2 sixes.
Pakistan who were set a target of 281 runs to win had a mammoth task ahead of them and with a weak batting line up except for the likes of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi. With Pakistan having trouble chasing down targets over 250 runs in the recent past, the chances of a Pakistan victory were very bleak unless a powerful innings by one of their batsmen. With the target set, Pakistan got off to a good start having scored 48 runs in their first 10 overs. Thisera Perera gave the first break when he caught and bowled the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez who scored 14 runs with a one handed dive catch on the pitch. The scoreboard at this point read 48/1 in 10.1 overs.
Younis Khan who came in for the 2nd wicket didn’t have much to do with the Pakistan innings when he was caught behind by Kumar Sangakkara off the bowling of Thisera Perera with just 4 runs being scored by him. Sangakkara who had dropped a catch of Younis Khan just 3 balls earlier off Thisera Perera did not miss the second chance. Misbah-ul-Haq who came in next, supported Azhar Ali who went on to make his half century also. The 49 runs partnership between the duo for the 3rd wicket came to an end when Thisera Perera yet again gave the breakthrough trapping Misbah leg before wicket on 27 runs.
Umar Akmal who walked in next failed to perform yet again when he was given out caught behind by Sangakkara off the bowling of Thissera Perera with just 3 runs scored off 11 balls. With Pakistan desperately needing a big scorer to come in to support Azhar Ali, Shahid Afridi walked in to share the partnership for the 5th wicket. Afridi who started his innings by blasting a boundary over the slip fielder off Thisera Perera looked all set to take Pakistan home with 132 runs being needed off the last 15 overs with the batting power play also yet to be taken. Kulasekara who came into bowl his 7th over replacing Rangana Herath claimed the 5th Pakistan wicket when he broke the leg stump of Azhar Ali into two when he bowled him out on 96 runs.
Pakistan stumper Sarfraz Ahmed walked in next with the damage already been done but with little hope remaining with Shahid Afridi still standing but that hope was also cut off when Malinga struck in his 6th over with a slower ball to Afridi who tipped the ball which went on wide of the wicket keeper but Sangakkara who has 299 ODI catches in his name dives and takes a one handed blinder to bring up his 300th catch while also ending Shahid Afridi’s short innings with 17 runs. Pakistan who were 165 for the loss of 6 wickets at this moment were just short of a miracle to win the match.
Sohail Tanvir who came into bat at number 8 position survived only 12 minutes into the game when he pulled a shot off the bowling off Thisera Perera which when high up and Upul Tharanga on the boundary took good catch to send him back to the dressing room with only 3 runs scored. Umar Gul who walked in next played a cameo innings with one six off Mathews before he too was trapped leg before wicket by Thisera Perera on 14. Perera completed his allotted 10 overs at the end of the over had a career best figure of 6 for 44 runs. This was also the best bowling figure by any bowler in ODI against Pakistan with no other bowler getting more than 5 wickets against Pakistan in ODI’s before.
Malinga who came back for his 8th over next took the 9th wicket of the Pakistan innings claiming Saeed Ajmal’s wicket when he was on 4 runs when Ajmal nicked another slower ball of Malinga which landed safely in the hands of stumper Kumar Sangakkara. The Pakistan innings was brought to an end 2 balls later when Kulasekara struck again in his 9th over to get Sarfraz Ahmed out LBW on 20 runs which gave Sri Lanka a win by 76 runs.
Thisera Perera was adjudged the Man of the Match for the career best 6 for 44 and Sri Lanka level the series 1-1 and wrapped up the Pallekale edition of the tour. Sri Lanka who were a much better team this time around compared to the recent past and the senior batsmes Dilshan and Mahela gaining some form, prospects on paper seem good for the future of the Team in the series. The 3rd ODI match will be played next Wednesday at the R.Premedasa Stadium in Colombo and Pakistan will give it their best to come back and win a game while Sri Lanka need to continue and build on their success and momentum they gained today.
With a the two top team in the Sub Continent clashing and with a game where 9 players who had captained their team at some point in time (Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Umar Akamal, Mohommad Hafeez, Mahela Jayawardena, Kumar Sangakkara, Thilakaratne Dilshan & Angelo Matthews - a fact said by CricInfo) playing in the same game, it sure was a treat to watch for all Sri Lankan cricket fans.