From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.26 :: Jun. 27, 2009

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CRICKET / FINAL: PAKISTAN V SRI LANKA

Deserving winner

Sangakkara was let down by his top-order and then the Pakistani batsmen did not allow the Lankans even a sniff at the title. S. Dinakar reports.

It was not an easy decision for Kumar Sangakkara to make after he had won the spin of the coin. The Sri Lankan captain would surely have weighed his options. Batting first had its advantages. After his team put runs on the board, Lanka’s varied attack could consume and strike.

But then, there has invariably been early assistance for the pacemen at Lord’s. There had been — at least in the initial stages of the match — bounce and carry for the faster bowlers at this hallowed venue during the competition. The pitch then tended to ease out.

The women’s final earlier in the day had been a pointer. There was appreciable movement for the England bowlers at the start and that phase proved decisive.

Sangakkara opted to bat and his move was not without logic. Yes, there was a cloud cover but he must have backed his top-order to overcome the initial period. He also had two spinners of quality — Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis — who would be better off in the second-half of the match when the pitch got a little drier.

At the back of his mind must have been the fact that Pakistan’s prime paceman Umar Gul had generally bowled only in the second-half of the innings.

But then, cricket has this habit of throwing up unlikely heroes. Mohammed Amir had bowled zestfully in the competition but surely the Lankan top-order would have backed itself against a left-armer lacking experience. And Abdul Razzaq had impressed only in patches during the tournament. The wily paceman had still not settled into an ideal bowling rhythm.

Amir and Razzaq virtually settled the issue in the first six overs; Lanka was reeling at 32 for four. Amir took out the mercurial Tillekeratne Dilshan after a series of searing short-pitched deliveries in the first over. The match-winning batsman was held at short fine-leg, attempting a scoop shot. Then, Razzaq had Sanath Jayasuriya edging a pull on to his stumps just when the left-hander was beginning to cut loose.

Pinch-hitter Jehan Mubarak was undone by Razzaq’s bounce as he came down the track and Mahela Jayawardene — this was a big wicket — miscued a cut into the slip’s hands. Pakistan had seized the initiative.

Lanka fought back through its valiant skipper Kumar Sangakkara — 64 not out off 52 balls — and emerging all-rounder Angelo Matthews — 35 not out off 24 balls — but a target of 139 was a gettable one.

Pakistan handled the chase with confidence. The bursts of aggression were calculated. Kamran Akmal, another batsman with bat-speed and hand-eye coordination, fired at the start. Importantly, he did not allow Mendis to settle down. The Lankan spinner, with his wicket-to-wicket bowling and subtle spin and bounce, had been a major factor in the middle overs.

Young opener Shahzaib Hasan donned a useful supporting role while essaying a few brave strokes himself — including two boundaries off Mendis — as Pakistan built a solid platform.

Then, Man of the Match Shahid Afridi assumed centre-stage. He had bowled with precision and verve, spinning his leg-breaks and using the wrong ’un, the skidder and the occasional top-spinner to keep the batsmen guessing. The Pathan then batted with maturity and tact. He dumped Muralitharan over the mid-wicket ropes and struck the off-spinning wizard over covers in a crucial 14th over. Muralitharan too was not allowed to choke the run-rate.

Afridi (54 not out off 40 balls) also drove to long off and worked the ball around to collect singles and twos. Shoaib Malik was an able ally.

Lasith Malinga bowled with heart and craft as he swung the ball and extracted lift with that sling-arm action of his. Afridi willed his way through these testing overs.

Left-arm paceman Isuru Udana — brought back in the 18th over — was targetted as the asking rate climbed. Afridi dumped a slower one into the crowd beyond mid-wicket and glanced the paceman for a boundary. Pakistan rattled up 19 runs off the over. It was only a matter of time before Afridi and Pakistan celebrated.

It was a rough day in the office for Sangakkara. He had batted with technique and flair, leaning into his cover-drives, picking the length early and unwinding for the pull, and holding the innings together even as wickets fell at the other end. The left-hander was all character and class even as Gul — by his own standards — had a rare off-day towards the end after bowling a series of stinging leg-cutters earlier.

Sangakkara was let down by his top-order and then the Pakistani batsmen did not allow the Lankans even a sniff at the title. The chasing side was home with eight wickets and eight deliveries to spare. Pakistan was a deserving winner.

THE SCORES

ICC World Twenty20 final: Pakistan v Sri Lanka.

Result: Pakistan won by 8 wickets.

Sri Lanka: T. M. Dilshan c Shahzaib Hasan b Mohammad Aamer 0, S. T. Jayasuriya b Abdul Razzaq 17, J. Mubarak c Shahzaib Hasan b Abdul Razzaq 0, K. C. Sangakkara (not out) 64, D. P. M. D. Jayawardene c Misbah-ul-Haq b Abdul Razzaq 1, L. P. C. Silva c Saeed Ajmal b Umar Gul 14, I. Udana b Shahid Afridi 1, A. D. Mathews (not out) 35, Extras (lb-3, w-2, nb-1) 6. Total (for 6 wkts; 20 overs) 138.

Fall of wickets: 1-0, 2-2, 3-26, 4-32, 5-67, 6-70.

Pakistan bowling: Mohammad Aamer 4-1-30-1, Abdul Razzaq 3-0-20-3, Shahid Afridi 4-0-20-1, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-28-0, Shoaib Malik 1-0-8-0, Umar Gul 4-0-29-1.

Pakistan: Kamran Akmal st Sangakkara b Jayasuriya 37, Shahzaib Hasan c Jayasuriya b Muralitharan 19, Shahid Afridi (not out) 54, Shoaib Malik (not out) 24, Extras (lb-2, w-2, nb-1) 5. Total (for 2 wkts; 18.4 overs) 139.

Fall of wickets: 1-48, 2-63.

Sri Lanka bowling: A. D. Mathews 2-0-17-0, I. Udana 4-0-44-0, S. L. Malinga 3.4-0-14-0, M. Muralitharan 3-0-20-1, B. A. W. Mendis 4-0-34-0, S. T. Jayasuriya 2-0-8-1.



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