From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.10 :: Mar. 10, 2011

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CRICKET / PAKISTAN V SRI LANKA (GROUP A)

Pakistan's record intact

Shahid Afridi's men held their nerve to complete their seventh win against Sri Lanka in all World Cups, maintaining their proud record of never having lost to their opponent at cricket's showpiece.

Captain Shahid Afridi cast a spell taking four wickets as Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by 11 runs in a World Cup Group ‘A' match at the R. Premadasa Stadium.

Electing to bat, Pakistan put on 277 for 7 with Misbah-ul-Haq (83 not out) and Younis Khan (72) leading the charge.

Afridi (4-34) then followed up his five-wicket haul against Kenya with another stellar performance with the ball. He provided the breakthroughs whenever the team needed them. Sri Lanka needed 18 runs from the last over and could reach only 266 for nine in 50 overs.

Comeback fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar (2-42), Umar Gul (1-60) and spinner Mohammad Hafiz (1-33) gave good support to Afridi, who excelled on a slow wicket.

Sri Lanka made a good start with Upul Tharanga (33) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (41) scoring 76 runs in 14.2 overs. But they fell in quick succession. Hafeez removed Tharanga and Afridi got rid of the dangerous Dilshan.

Mahela Jayawerdena was bowled by an incoming Akhtar delivery and Thilan Samaraweera fell to Afridi.

Kumar Sangakkara (49) and Chamara Silva (57) added 73 runs for the fifth wicket. The Sri Lankan captain was dismissed by Afridi as he tried to accelerate and holed out in the deep. Chamara took 115 balls and was never comfortable against the spinners. He batted for a while, but the Pakistan bowlers by then had the match in their grip.

Pakistan could have had Sri Lanka bowled out much earlier but for some fielding mishaps. It dropped some sitters and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal had a bad day behind the stumps.

Earlier, Misbah, the Pakistan vice-captain, struck his second consecutive fifty in the tournament while Younis Khan followed his 50 against Kenya in Hambantota with a 76-ball 72.

The senior duo put on 108 off 123 balls for the fourth wicket to give Pakistan a respectable total to defend.

Pakistan was placed at 105-3 when Misbah joined Younis and together they made good use of the middle overs.

The Pakistanis, however, failed to make the most of the last 10 overs including the batting power-play as they were tied down by veteran spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and Nuwan Kulasekera.

Murali, playing his last World Cup, finished with figures of 1-35 in his 10 overs. He gave away just five in his last two overs during batting powerplay. Fast bowler Kulasekera, too, was impressive as he bowled several dot balls during the death overs.

For Pakistan, Kamran Akmal scored 39 off 48 balls while opener Hafeez chipped in with a 31-ball 32. Left-arm spinner Rangana Herath, who replaced Ajantha Mendis, picked up 2-46 while Thisara Perera finished with 2-62.

Jubilant skipper Afridi hailed Pakistan's impressive win as a huge boost for his team but demanded an improvement in fielding standards.

“It's a very big win for us,” said Afridi. “Beating Sri Lanka before a capacity crowd, and a strong team which has been playing well.”

Despite the win, Pakistan was poor in the field, with wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal spurning stumping chances and catches going to ground.

Kumar Sangakkara and Chamara Silva gave Pakistan a scare but Afridi's men held their nerve to complete their seventh win against Sri Lanka in all World Cups, maintaining their proud record of never having lost to their opponent at cricket's showpiece.

Afridi said he was pleased at the responsible innings played by Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.

“It's important that seniors have taken responsibility. Younis and Misbah are the backbone of the team,” said Afridi. “It's also important that the captain performs well and sets an example for others.” Afridi passed the milestone of 300 wickets during the match, his 314th one-day international, saying it was “one of my goals.”

“Reaching 300 wickets is a big achievement. I have always wanted to get to that mark and always prefer my bowling over my batting,” said Afridi, who became the 11th bowler and third Pakistani behind Wasim Akram (502) and Waqar Younis (416) to reach the mark.

The swashbuckling all-rounder is only the second man behind Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya to score more than 6,000 ODI runs and take 300 wickets.

THE SCORES

Pakistan 277 for seven in 50 overs (M. Hafeez 32, K. Akmal 39, Y. Khan 72, Misbah 83 not out) beat Sri Lanka 266 for nine in 50 overs (U. Tharanga 33, T. Dilshan 41, K. Sangakkara 49, C. Silva 57, S. Afridi four for 34).



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