Colombo: Sri Lanka defended a moderate total to shatter Pakistan’s dreams of reaching the World T20 final last night through a spectacular display of controlled spin and pace bowling in front of their cheering home crowd. Though restricted to 139 for 4, the Sri Lankan bowlers tied down Pakistan to 123 for 7 to win by 16 runs. Skipper Mahela Jayawardene was declared man of the match for his elegant 42 runs.
The Pakistan batsmen virtually threw their wickets going for their shots. Except for their skipper Mohammad Hafeez, who rode his luck with two dropped catches and scored 42 runs, and Umar Akmal, with an unbeaten 29 runs, none of their batsmen rose to the challenge. It was nothing but unimaginative batting without any plan.
Ranganara Herath bagged three wickets for 25 runs backed by Ajantha Mendis and Angelo Mathews with two each.
Needing just seven runs per over, the Pakistan openers Hafeez and Imran Nazir began cautiously, countering the pace of Lasith Malinga and putting on 31 runs.
Sri Lanka’s mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, who was introduced in the sixth over, struck with the last ball of his first over by clean-bowling Imran Nazir for 20. Thisara Perera would have got the wicket of Hafeez on seven in the next over had Rangana Herath, at long-on, held on to a tough catch.
Mathews trapped Nazir Jamshed leg before with the first ball of his first over for 4. Three balls later he also had Kamran Akmal easily caught at mid-wicket for 1. At the end of the 10th over, Pakistan were 58 for 3, still needing 82 from 60 balls.
In the 11th over, left-arm spinner Herath bowled Shoaib Malek with a ball that spun in for 6. Hafeez escaped being caught once again on 24 when Malinga at long-on dropped an easy catch off Mathews.
In the 15th Herath had Hafeez stumped for 42 and clean-bowled Shahid Afridi first ball for a duck to tilt the match in his team’s favour.
Earlier, Sri Lanka won the toss and had elected to bat. Jayawardene glanced the second ball of the first over from Tanvir to the boundary. Pakistan once again introduced left–arm spinner Raza Hassan with the new ball. Tilakaratne Dilshan slashed the third delivery from Hassan to the boundary.
Tanvir bowled an excellent second over, giving away just two runs. Jayawardene played an elegant sweep of Hassan to pick up another boundary. Tanvir would have got the wicket of Dilshan on six had wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal not dropped him. He dived to his right and even got his glove to it, but couldn’t hold on.
Pakistan introduced their strike bowler Saeed Ajmal in the sixth over and Jayawardene hit the first and last ball of the over for boundaries. Skipper Hafeez also introduced Shahid Afridi in the seventh over, but the openers continue to score runs at will.
By the end of the tenth over, the Sri Lankan openers had put on 62 runs. Afridi provided the breakthrough in the 11th over when Jayawardene, playing a scoop shot, hit straight into the hands of Hassan at short fine leg for 42. His knock of 36 balls contained seven boundaries.
In the 13th over, Pakistan picked the valuable wicket of Kumar Sangakkara. Hafeez, seeing Sangakkara coming down the wicket bowled it slightly wide, and the Sri Lankan star hit into the hands of Shoaib Malek at long-on for 18 runs.
Sri Lanka then reached the 100-run mark in the 16th over. Hafeez and Afridi bowled a tight length, checking the run flow. With the score on 117, Gul trapped Dilshan leg before for 35.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 139-4 in 20 overs (Mahela Jayawardene 42, Tillakaratne Dilshan 35) v Pakistan 123-7 in 20 overs (Mohammad Hafeez 42; Rangana Herath 3-25, Angelo Mathews 2-27, Ajantha Mendis 2-27).