Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Fatullah February 25, 2014

Pakistan botch another 250-plus chase

Karthik Krishnaswamy in Fatullah
Pakistan had not chased a target of more than 250 successfully since February 2011. They came close today, but collapsed in a heap

When teams face challenging targets, sometimes all it takes for the chase to swing decisively their way is a couple of big overs. Clinical finishers recognise this and bat sensibly, turning the strike over and putting away bad balls, even as the required rate mounts. They know the pressure will tell on the bowling side. They know the big overs will come.

Having come together with 176 required off 159 balls, Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal were approaching the chase of 296 in just that spirit. They rotated strike, and picked off bad balls, and had put on 61 in 69 deliveries when they took the batting Powerplay. Pakistan, at that stage, needed 115 from 90.

The five Powerplay overs brought Misbah and Akmal 33 runs. Only 14 of these runs came in boundaries, each of which was either the result of poor bowling or calculated risk. Misbah flicked a leg stump half-volley from Lasith Malinga past short fine leg and dumped a flighted delivery from Sachithra Senanayake, with the turn, over deep midwicket. Akmal gave himself room to launch the spinner past the unmanned deep extra-cover boundary.

Those 33 runs brought the equation down to 82 from 60. Both batsmen, by now, were well set. In the first post-Powerplay over, Akmal hammered Suranga Lakmal for two fours and a six, going past 50 in the process. In the next over, he lofted left-arm spinner Chaturanga de Silva over extra cover and late-cut him virtually from within the keeper's gloves, to pick up two more fours.

The two big overs had arrived. The momentum had swung Pakistan's way. The stadium was only a third full, but most of that crowd seemed to be supporting Pakistan. Their chants filled the air. Their team now needed just 57 from 48.

Most teams in the world that need 57 from 48 balls, with six wickets in hand and two half-centurions at the crease, would go on to win comfortably. With Pakistan, however, you never quite know. And this isn't just recourse to the 'mercurial Pakistan' stereotype.

Since February 2011, when Misbah scored an unbeaten 93 to guide them to a two-wicket win chasing 263 in Napier, Pakistan had lost every time when chasing a target in excess of 250 - 11 matches. In Fatullah they were in a position to end that unwanted streak. They needed 57 from 48, with six wickets in hand. Misbah was batting on 67, Akmal on 72.

Lakmal had gone for 16 runs in his previous over. Angelo Mathews, the Sri Lanka captain, kept him on. Perhaps he had the inkling of a rash stroke from Akmal, who had exchanged words with Lakmal seven overs before. Third ball of Lakmal's over, Akmal threw a diagonal bat at a wide length ball. Kumar Sangakkara snapped up the edge behind the stumps.

At this point Pakistan needed a batsman with a cool head, a batsman who could bat sensibly, give Misbah the strike and calm things down. In walked Shahid Afridi. He slapped the seventh ball he faced straight into cover's hands.

Three balls later, Misbah holed out. Some situations can get to the coolest of heads. Out of nowhere, Lasith Malinga had two wickets in an over: a wide length ball slapped straight to cover, a length ball on leg stump hoicked to deep square leg. Pakistan were seven down.

They still only needed 43 from 30, and all the Pakistan batsmen who had got out playing silly shots - all the way back to Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood earlier in the innings - will have had a sick feeling in their stomachs when two fluky, edged boundaries from Saeed Ajmal brought their target down to 17 from 12.

It wasn't to be, of course, but it could have been, so easily. Instead, Pakistan suffered a 12th straight defeat in a 250-plus chase.

"The way Umar and I had a partnership going, if we had just played out the overs the match was easy," Misbah later said. "Only a wicket could get them back in the game, and that is the mistake we made."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2014, 16:26 GMT

    better if India opt for Pandey over Rayudu..keeping Binny intact..

  • Android on February 27, 2014, 18:53 GMT

    Since last 17 years we are waiting that one Shahid Afridi we become a mature batman but he has not learned anything from the opportunity he is getting now time has come we should give chance to other youngsters.

  • Syed on February 27, 2014, 5:26 GMT

    Defeat from the verge of winning is always difficult to digest especially such a hard work done by Misbah and U Akmal, but lacking of finishing ability in Umer Akmal, absence of mind in Afridi to understand the situation (after playing roughly 375 games) and Bilawal Bhatti to take the game to final over were reasons costing the game to us. Feel sorry, to miss an opportunity to win a good game and full credit to Sri Lanka team to keep their nerves under control and secure a great victory.

  • SHAHID on February 26, 2014, 22:42 GMT

    Afridi should be dropped as he is not a batsman, hes poor. Hes played hundreds of one days yet he cant remain cool and calm. Pathetic.

  • Valavan on February 26, 2014, 9:13 GMT

    @Pakistan Fans, This is what MD Crowe meant as MESS. Pakistan can win from jaws of defeat and loose from winning position. SL should definitely know that NZ not long ago registered test win in SL. I sincerely wish NZ to go for glory this time as they play in home conditions. NZ has to play 3 good matches in KNOCKOUT for the CUP. cricinfo please publish.

  • Zeeshan on February 26, 2014, 8:25 GMT

    Include Fawad Alam in place of Bhatti. This will give more depth in batting and he is a left arm spinner as well. Gul, junaid, ajmal, afridi, hafeez have the quality to bowl 50 overs. Fawad Alam can himself bowl 3-4 over in the middle.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 8:05 GMT

    This is a pathetic record and shows the team lacks temperament to finish the job. No excuses for Afridi and Hafeez. The presenced of both these "mediocre" Allrounders ruins the balance of Pakistan side. Hafeez is unfit and unworthy to be a no. 3 batsmen which is a slot occupied by the team's best batsmen. Afridi has lost many games for Pakistan when just a decent 20-30 runs chould have won the game. Afridi must be dropped for good and a better bowler like Babar played. Hafeez should either bat down the order or make way for a much better batsmen like Fawad Alam. The Team and Management refuse to learn lessons and the blunders in team selection and patterns of losing continue to be repeated.

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 7:49 GMT

    I am fine with result as a Pakistani. It was a tough fight and boys did their best. They could have done better in the end but its ok to lose like this as long as they learn from mistakes in the death overs

  • Android on February 26, 2014, 7:18 GMT

    yes they should have chased it. the fact is they failed to read the game. umar akmal got carried away really there was no need to do that. afridi should wait and the try to do anything. you just came in and no big score board pressure really and you are trying to hit their best bowler.

    misbah also played poor shot. pak had bhatti and gul who could stay on wicket so all misbah needed was to stay till end.

    they failed to read game. and tried to hit the best bowler. you have to give respect. even likes of gul and bhatto were trying to hit malinga which tells the lack of maturity in these guys. sharjeel has got not sound technique. his style will succeed once in few games but not all. disappointed with maqsood. he got starts in all his games but every time given away. another afridi in making really. bhatti's bowling is not improving . dont know what m akram doing. should bring in anwar ali instead of him and may move hafeez to open and bring fawad instead of sharjeel.1

  • Dummy4 on February 26, 2014, 6:54 GMT

    Everyone is going to blame the lower middle order for this but i think if you are once set you should finish the game. Misbah and Umar should have done it. Once umar took the game away from Sri Lanka he should have played sensibly. Misbah tried a lot to calm him down but he didn't listened

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