Malik and Alam seal thriller for Pakistan
Pakistan 141 for 7 (Malik 42*, Weeraratne 4-19) beat Sri Lanka 137 for 9 (Mubarak 39, Gul 4-13) by three wickets
Considering that cricket bats have normally been packed away at this time of the year in Toronto, it is hardly surprising that the T20 Canada tournament is proving tough for batsmen, but Shoaib Malik and Fawad Alam combined in thrilling style to steal this match away from Sri Lanka with a ball to spare.
Pakistan had little hope at 91 for 7, following a four-wicket return for debutant Kaushalya Weeraratne, but Malik and Alam added 50 in four overs in front of a packed ground. Malik hit the winning boundary off the penultimate ball to send Pakistan to the top of the table.
This was the glamour tie of the tournament (although a repeat in the final is likely) and the local supporters responded. There was plenty of support for both sides, and they got the match they deserved. Following closely on from the bowl-out win for Zimbabwe, it was a cracking day for the tournament.
Sri Lanka were left regretting their decision to leave out Mahela Jayawardene and Ajantha Mendis, among four changes from the Zimbabwe game. Their absence took something away from the contest, but Jayawardene is probably expecting a rematch in the final, and the finish more than made up for it. Sri Lanka, though, will accept that it was one that got away.
In four matches there has been only one half-century, by Salman Butt, but he went early this time, given lbw to Farveez Maharoof. He seemed far from pleased and appeared to think he grazed the ball, although replays weren't totally clear. Shoaib Khan jnr had already departed and Pakistan were 13 for 2.
Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq played sensibly, adding 48 in seven overs, until the introduction of Weeraratne - as the fifth bowler - changed the game, but not for the final time. He bowled Younis with his fourth ball and two deliveries later had Misbah caught behind. Shahid Afridi only plays one way and his attempt to launch the ball into a neighbouring suburb ended with a boundary catch.
Weeraratne continued to shine when he claimed his fourth as Sohail Tanvir got a leading edge. Between Weeraratne's display, Dilhara Fernando - whose first over cost 16, including a free-hit that went for six - chipped in to remove Kamran Akmal.
But the captain Malik was still there and Alam showed immense power. Alam launched three sixes, including two into the VIP area and, before Sri Lanka knew it, Pakistan needed 13 from the final over. Alam slammed his third six and Malik sealed the rapid reversal with consecutive boundaries off Nuwan Kulasekara.
The first over of the match suggested a good contest was on the cards as Sanath Jayasuriya launched the innings with consecutive boundaries off Shoaib Akhtar, but fell next ball when he top-edged to fine leg.
Mahela Udawatte and Jehan Mubarak added 51 for the second wicket with Mubarak the more dominant, continuing positively after Udawatte was bowled round his legs by Afridi. Mubarak had struck six fours when he came down the track and was beaten by turn from Malik, with Akmal completing a safe stumping.
As has been the case in all matches, scoring off the spinners was tough and the middle order struggled to push on against Afridi and Malik. However, the action came from Umar Gul, who showed why he has developed into one of the most effective death bowlers in the world.
His first wicket was Chamara Kapugedera, who was setting himself for a late assault. Gul then bowled full and straight at the tail - who kept swinging and missing - and finished with healthy returns of 4 for 13 off three overs. For much of the second innings it looked to have been a wasted effort, but nothing can be taken for granted in Twenty20.