Convincing victory over Sri Lanka takes Pakistan into the Final
Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the two teams tipped to play the final of the ARY Gold Cup, met in a fierce clash today with Pakistan coming out on top by 28 runs. Victors in all the 3 matches, Pakistan has achieved a 100 percent record so far.
Saeed Anwar (88), Inzamam (87) and Younis Khan (29) were the architects of Pakistan's total of 278. Although Pakistan may have expected to win by a larger margin, Sri Lanka batted tenaciously and at times posing a serious threat to Pakistan. Even speedster Chaminda Vaas batting at No. 8 defied Pakistani bowlers with courage and scored an unbeaten 50.
Had Shahid Afridi (3 for 44) not made the vital, perhaps fortunate, breakthroughs Pakistan might have been in serious trouble.
Batting first Pakistan made a disastrous start losing both the openers with only 18 on the board. Saeed Anwar and Inzamam got together to build up the innings. At first, with only 36 runs off 10 overs, it was a dismal start in contrast to the 100 that had come by the 11th over in the previous match. Afridi's early exit made the difference.
Recognising their low scoring rate, the two batsmen opened up by hitting some fast and crisp shots raising the total to 77 in 15 overs. Saeed (34) and Inzamam (22) now looked in complete command.
The 19th over was one in which Saeed Anwar made history by completing 2000 runs in Sharjah at an impressive average of over 46, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd overflowing the stadium. Continuing with his run spree Saeed also reached his 8000 runs mark in 218 matches. After 25 overs Pakistan were 125 for 2.
In the very next over Inzamam delighted the crowd with a mighty six off Dharmasena and also completing his 2000 runs at Sharjah with a splendid average of over 52. It appeared to be a day of records. Playing sizzling shots all over the field the two batsmen were punishing the bowlers all over the ground.
Sri Lanka had a sigh of relief when Saeed Anwar was adjudged lbw off Vaas after playing a fantastic innings of 88. Pakistan lost the 3rd wicket at 190. Resorting to unnecessary rashness Inzamam was caught by Jayasuriya off Muralitharan after scoring a thrilling 87. With another wicket lost, Pakistan was 209 for 5.
The onus was now in the hands of the youngsters. Humayun Farhat making his presence felt by hitting a six became the victim of an unfortunate dismissal, run out when his partner played a straight shot that hit the stumps at the bowler's end after touching Fernando's fingers.
The tail-enders fighting hard to add as many runs as possible, Pakistan's innings ended at 278 for 9. With a haul of 3 wickets Dilhara Fernando was the most successful bowler.
Chasing a victory target of 289 runs, Sri Lanka made their usual enterprising start with Jayasuriya hurling new comer Kashif Raza out of the field for a six. Tragedy struck when Waqar bowled Jayasuriya for 20 and young Kashif Raza took his first ODI wicket when Kaluwitharana played on for 25. Sri Lanka had lost 2 wickets for 49 runs.
Pakistan's bowling not making any serious impact, Attapatu and Jayawardene played all sorts of shots to bring up 100 of the innings in 17 overs. Playing his 1st match at Sharjah, Yasir Arafat, however, got the breakthrough when he made Jayawardene edge an away swinger after a useful 31.
Attapatu and Arnold continued piling up runs defying all types of bowling that Pakistan tried. The situation changed all of a sudden when Sri Lanka lost 3 wickets one after the other. Afridi was the chief wrecker. He ousted Arnold for 19 to a rather unfortunate caught behind decision. Atapattu was caught and bowled for 36. From the other end, off spinner Shoaib Malik got another lucky break with a decision of caught behind against Dharmasena, reducing Sri Lanka to 149 for 6.
Afridi struck for the 3rd time when he caught and bowled de Saram with Sri Lanka at 171 for 7 scored in 33 overs. Although Sri Lanka was maintaining the required run rate but the match was turning in Pakistan's favor.
The 8th wicket fell when Nuwan Zoysa was run out at the total of 205. After 45 overs Sri Lanka required 60 runs in 30 balls with only two wickets in hand.
It was certainly a herculian task for the tail enders. Sri Lanka's innings ended at 250 for 8. Vaas who had come at six down remained unbeaten with a heroic 50. Shahid Afridi took 3 wickets while other bowlers claimed one each. Pakistan won the match by 28 runs and Saeed Anwar was declared man of the Match.