HomeWorld NewsPak clinch nail-biter to secure SF spot

Pak clinch nail-biter to secure SF spot

Sri Lanka and Pakistan produced a titanic battle for the ages, filled with calamitous mistakes and individual brilliance in equal measure, in their ICC Champions Trophy group match at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Monday as both sides slugged it out and came back from the dead on multiple occasions only for Pakistan to run home winners by 3 wickets with 31 balls remaining.

Pak clinch nail-biter to secure SF spotFull Scorecard: Pakistan v Sri Lanka
Pak clinch nail-biter to secure SF spotInteractive coverage

Cricket’s pendulum swung more than once today as first Pakistan, and then Sri Lanka and then Pakistan again were on top and seemingly in control of the clash only for remarkable fight backs and periods of self-destruction on both sides keeping everyone watching in the ground and around the world on the edge of their seats.

It started with a vintage display of swing bowling from Pakistan’s seamers that, if you squinted at your TV at just the right angle, might have had you mistaking it for a rerun of Pakistan circa 1996 as Junaid Kahn (3-40 from 10), Hasan Ali (3-43 from 10) and Mohammad Amir (2-53 from 10) had the ball on a string as they arced it through the air and nipped it laterally off the seam.

Despite an impressive knock from opener Niroshan Dickwella (73 from 86), who anchored the Sri Lankan innings, a middle order collapse saw the islanders crumble from 161-3 to 167-7 and then to 236 all out.

At the half way point, momentum was with Pakistan and an opening stand of 74 between Azhar Ali (35 from 50) and the belligerent Fakhar Zaman (50 from 36), who registered his maiden ODI half century, gave the impression that the chasing side would reach their target at a canter.

But a change of strategy from the Sri Lankan bowlers saw them dig the ball in short and pepper the Pakistan batsman to rip through the line-up and leave them reeling at 162-7.

An obvious weakness in the Pakistan batsmen’s technique was ruthlessly exploited by Nuwan Pradeep (3-60 from 10), Lasith Malinga (1-52 from 9.5) and Suranga Lakmal (1-48 from 10) as they simply could not handle the chin music being served up.

In fact, every single wicket that Pakistan has lost to seam bowling in this tournament has come as a result of a short ball. There is clearly a major technical flaw in the side and one must surely look squarely at Mickey Arthur and his coaching team.


When the seventh wicket fell, Sri Lanka’s fans were already planning their visit to London on Wednesday to take on England but they did not count on two things: a determined captain’s knock by Sarfraz Ahmed (61* from 79) and terrible fielding.

Two dollies, one at mid-on from Thisara Perera and one on the long-leg boundary from the substitute fielder, put Ahmed down and compounded overthrows, miss-fields and byes that saw Sri Lanka’s advantage dwindle by the over.

A fifty run stand for the eighth wicket between Ahmed and Mohammad Amir (28* from 43) was reached shortly before the Pakistan captain brought up his own milestone with a punched cover drive from Lakmal to leave his team needing just 20 runs from the final 8 overs.

The partnership of 75* for the eighth wicket is the highest ever in Champions Trophy history and secured a memorable victory when Ahmed steered what could be Malinga’s final delivery in an ICC event for four through to third man.

“I said to Amir to play your game, to not worry. If he scored 20 runs, which he did, we would win,” said Sarfraz.

If anyone ever asks you for a microcosm of Pakistan cricket, be sure to show them this classic that had it all.

As Pakistan marches to the next round, they will have to dramatically improve if they have any hope of toppling England at The Oval in two days’ time but will not doubt their hunger for a fight or their ability to resurrect a lost cause.

Sri Lanka had this game wrapped up and it will be a long flight back with thoughts of what could have been.

“It was a see-saw game. Pakistan held their nerve, so credit goes to them,” said Mathews. “They deserve it.

“Our bowlers were brilliant. Unfortunately we dropped catches and that cost us the game,” the all-rounder added.

An absolute cracker rounds off the group stages of the Champions Trophy as Pakistan joins England, Bangladesh and India in the semifinals.

PAKISTAN: Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Imad Wasim, Fahim Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan

SRI LANKA: N Dickwella (wk), MD Gunathilaka, BKG Mendis, AD Mathews (capt), LD Chandimal, DAS Gunaratne, DM de Silva, NLTC Perera, RAS Lakmal, SL Malinga, N Pradeep

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