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    Sri Lanka beat Pakistan, stay on top in T20

    Sri Lanka squared the two-match T20 series 1-1 with a well earned 24-run victory over series-based hosts Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday night, in front of a near capacity gallery.

    With this win, Sri Lanka retained their top of the ladder status in the ICC T20 rankings. Pakistan had to win on Friday night if they wanted to leap to the top spot from No. 3.

    The Lankans, put into bat for the second straight time by Pakistan skipper Mohammad Hafeez, went about their shot making in brilliant style for a first visit 211-3.

    In their chase of the very challenging target, Pakistan fought bravely to 187ao with useful contributions from medium pacer Sohail Tanvir (41 off 26 with five 4s and one 6) and the stubborn Saeed Ajmal (20 off 15 with one 4 and a 6) in the lower order, following a great 25-ball essay of 50 by opening batsman Sharjeel Khan.

    The 24 year-old Sharjeel from Hyderabad, Sind, also a handy leggie, helped himself to three 6s and five sweetly timed strokes to the boundary in a game where the Lankans’ fielding was of the usual high standard.

    Allrounder Sachithra Senanayake with his fastish off-breaks contained the ambitions of the Pakistani batsmen with a 3-27 haul from his full quota of four overs.The one single moment of the day was the dismissal of the Man of the Series Shahid Afridi (28 from 13 balls) - the star of the game in the first T20 on Wednesday - by keeper Kumar Sangakkara who covered a lot of ground when a skier that went yards behind him past the circle, was gloved off a delivery from medium pacer Thisara Perera.

    Sri Lanka went into an all-out attack with the bat to put together a solid first visit total thanks mainly to the top order batsmen who played in copy book style and also improvised in brilliant fashion to subject Pakistan to a virtual leather hunt in all but two of the 20 overs sent down by the Greens.

    Basically there was nothing wrong with the Pakistani bowling except for the wasteful odd short ball. So was their fielding except for the lack of effort by their men to stop the fours with last second dives on the boundary line.

    One must remember the night belonged to the talented Lankan who controlled the issue with clean hitting and unorthodox ‘helicopters’ shots either side of the wicket. A couple of these even sailed high over the rope.

    In short there was little Hafeez and his men could do on a night when the islanders hit near lethal form after they were propelled by the solid 100-run partnership for the opening wicket between veteran Tillakaratne Dilshan and Kusal Perera.

    The Lankans were able to maintain the rate rate at almost 10 an over except for two three-run overs sent down each by Hafeez and Saeed Ajmal, early in their spells.

    Twenty three-old Man of the Match Perera, a former Royal College product, who is also a first class keeper, played again with a touch of Sanath Jayasuriya like authority. He was run out off the final ball, after making a splendid 84 from 59 balls that contained four 6s and five 4s.

    His opening partner Dilshan 48 (from 33 balls with eight 4s) was more sedate, but still managed to please his followers here with classical pulls and square cuts.

    T20 debutant, 28-year-old legspinner cum batsman Seekkuge Prasanna who replaced spinner Ajantha Mendis in the Sri Lanka lineup, came off with a fiery 21 after an eight-ball stay while another trusted ‘war’ hero - the evergreen and agile Sangakkara - chalked up a superb 44 from 21 balls. The improvised shots of Sanagakkara past fine leg and third man were highly entertaining.

    Saeed Ajmal was the only Pakistani bowler to command some respect in his customary role as Pakistan’s sole wicket taking bowler in the side at the moment.

    His figures on Friday night read 4-0-25-2 which was highly appreciated by his supporters in a stadium that was near full till the end despite the wobble in the middle order during the Pakistani innings.

    (Khaleej Times)

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