Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Champions Trophy 2017, Group B, Cardiff June 12, 2017

Sarfraz sees shaky Pakistan into semi-finals


Pakistan 237 for 7 (Sarfraz 61*, Zaman 50, Pradeep 3-60) beat Sri Lanka 236 (Dickwella 73, Junaid 3-40, Hasan 3-43, Amir 2-53) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

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Agarkar: Sarfraz's calmness crucial in guiding his side

The Champions Trophy might have been damp and lifeless on the English shores this year, but it was on a Welsh detour that it finally roared to life. In the game which had the most riding on it all tournament, Pakistan and Sri Lanka provided a spectacle befitting the magnitude of the occasion, and Pakistan sneaked across the line with a thrilling three-wicket win. But that's only half the story. The rest centered around how madly the momentum of this game swung as two obviously flawed teams battled tooth and nail.

Qualification to the semis was the prize riding on this game that was a quarter-final in all but name, and it was clear both sides wanted it desperately. Sri Lanka started impressively but a brilliant spell midway from Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan restricted them to 236. Pakistan made the chase look harder than it was but captain Sarfraz Ahmed and Amir were there at the end to see their side home. Though the prospect of facing England on Wednesday will be daunting, it will be the last thing on their minds right now.

From the moment Pakistan's seventh wicket fell - with 75 still to win - two antsy sides were hoping they could do just about enough to pip the other. Sri Lanka were the favourites at that point, but their fielding let them down badly. Thisara Perera dropped a sitter at mid-on in the 39th over. Substitute fielder Seekkuge Prasanna shelled another chance - albeit a more difficult one - in the 41st. And Sarfraz, the reprieved batsman, the last of the specialists, took the game away.

Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka's great talisman, had created both chances and if this is to be his final ICC tournament, it was a cruel way to go. He watched, helplessly, as his team began to gift overthrows, and little by little, the belief as well to the Pakistan batsmen. By the time a dispirited Malinga was brought back for his final over, the fielding had disintegrated to amateurish level. Eventually, Sarfraz dabbed him over third man for the winning runs, and a shocking last half hour for the Sri Lankans met the end it deserved.

Sarfraz Ahmed's composure helped Pakistan overcome an untimely collapse © Getty Images

Before the nerves got hold of them, Pakistan were cruising. A dropped catch and a run-out opportunity in the first two overs aside, Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali set about their task masterfully.

Fakhar, comfortable in his role as the designated aggressor up front, hit three boundaries in the third over against Malinga. He didn't mind riding his luck at times, an outside edge burst through slips for four while a top edge flew for six, and when he was dismissed - caught at long leg - he had scored 50 off 36 and Pakistan were sitting pretty at 74 for 1 in 11.2 overs.

But with this being Pakistan, there was the inevitable feeling they would take the Rolling English Road to victory. Two wickets fell quickly as Babar Azam clipped Nuwan Pradeep straight to short midwicket and Hafeez chipped one to mid-on next over. Opener Azhar Ali was done in by the extra bounce of Suranga Lakmal soon after, edging a sharp catch to first slip. Pakistan were at 110 for 4, and the game was anything but a foregone conclusion.

Sri Lanka were quietly climbing into a position of ascendancy, but Pakistan almost appeared not to notice the early signs of danger. It certainly couldn't be ignored when Shoaib Malik gloved a short ball from Malinga to the keeper. When Imad Wasim fell five balls later, Pakistan were 6 down with 100 runs still to win.

Debutant Faheem Ashraf's short-lived stay at the crease was fraught with danger as the bowlers peppered him with short deliveries, several of which caught his top edge but managed to evade the boundary riders. For all the risks he was taking on strike, he was run-out at the other end, a ricochet off the bowler's hand finding the stumps before his bat hit the ground.

There were no such errors from Pakistan with the ball though. In fact they were so good that Sri Lanka, despite dominating large parts of their innings, were bowled out well below the par score.

A sensational four-over burst from Amir and Junaid ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankan middle order as they went from 161 for 3 to 167 for 7. It was superb fast bowling, evoking comparisons with some of the greats of Pakistan cricket and that it came soon after the innings' second drinks break spoke either to some kind of strategy, or an especially rousing team talk from the captain Sarfraz. Either way, it was match-turning.

Sri Lanka were setting up effectively for the final flourish, with Niroshan Dickwella and Angelo Mathews locked in a settled partnership, before Amir dismissed Mathews off the second ball of the 32nd over, the batsman dragging onto his stumps. Junaid followed up next over with a length delivery that seamed teasingly away from newcomer Dhananjaya de Silva and took his outside edge. Sarfraz then pulled off a superb reflex catch to get rid of Dickwella for 73 and Thisara was caught at slip next over. Sri Lanka's position of strength was decimated in mere minutes.

If it appeared that passage of play would be the solitary turning point of the match, Pakistan and Sri Lanka showed that when they take on each other, it is never quite that simple.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Hamaso on June 15, 2017, 4:53 GMT

    Reading comments about reorganizing teams like Srilanka and England after losing to Pakistan is ironic. Don't worry folks, the green team was the better team, nothing wrong with players in either of opponents..

  • NamalJaya on June 14, 2017, 13:34 GMT

    Again SL batters couldn't put up 250 runs on the board collectively to win this match, despite 73 scored by the remained Opener ND (of most productive/consistent SL opening pair UpulT/NiroshD found after 3 years of futile experiments). This pair has SL' best batting rankings in 2017 ( 1)Tharanga: 365 runs/Av 41/ SR91/ 1x100 & 2x 50+ from 9 odis & (2) Dickwella : 318 runs/ Av 39/SR 102/ 3x 50+ from 8 odis.

    This pair had consistently given 4 quickfire 1st wkt upfront launching pads from 5 innings played together (139 @ 9 rpo vs SA/ 69 @ 8 rpo vs SA/ 60 @ 5 rpo vs SA/ 45 @ 8 rpo vs SA).

    Unfortunately for SL this pair was disrupted again for the 2nd time in 6 months (first ND was band during t20 series in Aus for 2 matches and then got injured, missing BD series) and now the SL's most productive batter Tharanga was virtually eliminated from CT, due to harsh 2 match band fell on him after 1st match Vs SA where he was the highest scorer 57, but 5 batters failed to collect 96 to Win it.

  • cricfan1096926135 on June 14, 2017, 8:36 GMT

    As per one of the comments here president and the coach stepping down is compulsory. At the least the president should relinquish all affiliations with any cricket club. Sanga if consent will certainly be our hope to lift the World Cup. Why settle with foreigners when our own in the likes of Sanga and IPL winning team coach are available to us. Of course without any interference which is a doubtful factor. Take a leaf from India and Australia.

  • cricfan1096926135 on June 14, 2017, 6:46 GMT

    Now that CT 2017 is out of SL hands, selection committee should seriously think of dropping the deadwood until the upcoming WC. Should not consider the former team mates of the head of the committee and go for available talent found in plenty. Forget Kulasekara and Thisara who has not developed an iota from what they were 5 yrs ago in contrast to players like Hardik, Buvi, Mehedi, Mark, Jake, Zaman, Kagiso to name a few. Even Malinga should be kept out of upcoming international encounters to try new bowlers and give the new talent to get used to big stage. Fielding should improve leap and bounds under a good trainer and retaining Allan Donald for a while will be sensible.

  • Sugath on June 14, 2017, 5:25 GMT

    Since Kumar Sangakkara is leaving all cricket, that of playing as a batsman end of this summer season in England, can he be made the coach for Sri Lanka? He should have total freedom and no interference of any selectors or other SLC officials. Then Lanka will rise up again to top in all three formats.

  • Sugath on June 14, 2017, 5:19 GMT

    The issue with Sri Lanka bils down to Leadership vacuum. That is to say both public and private leadership. The captain once again coming after such success against India flawed in leadership. The turning point was the fall of 7th wicket on Pakistan at 162/7. At that point he should have turned to Malinga as Amir would not have known to deal with Malinga. But sadly Mathews kept on with other bowlers and by the time Malinga came on the nail was already fixed on Lanka. So an easy victory turnes to defeat. Also another turning point in batting was the shot played by Mathews after the drinks break at 162/3, a very careless one which caused the slide in the side. Absence of Kusal Perera was felt in this match badly because had he been there would have won. So it all boils down to leadership training, for all the players plus the chief selector as well. Lack of good leadership traits is the cause for downward ride of our team. When will they learn to do a SWOT and a SIPN analysis?

  • Ranilfdo on June 14, 2017, 5:07 GMT

    I expected Sri Lankan team to lose all 3 matches but they managed to beat India. In the Pakistan match it was terrible selection at first to play Dhananjaya De Silva who was out of form & brought into the team straightaway. I don't know what the selection committee is doing keeping Dinesh Chandimal in the team. A useless limited overs player just like Thirimanna. Poor batting order, we should have sent Asela Gunarathna in earlier before Chandimal & Dhananjaya De Silva probably after Mathews. We should have utilized our in form players properly. Fitness of the players is a serious issue. Fielding coaches should be sacked immediately. Sri Lankan Cricket Board & the selection committee should take the responsibility of this exit from the tournament. At least now they should give opportunities to other players in the Sri Lanka "A" team rather than keeping tried & failed players like Chandimal, Kapugedara, etc.

  • crzcric on June 14, 2017, 3:00 GMT

    SL players pool for future ODIs. 1)tharanga 2)Dickwella 3)Mendis 4)Dhanushka 5)Mathews 6)Asela 7)Dasun Shanaka 8)Malinda pushpakumara 9)Pradeep 10)Lakmal 11)Malinga(subject to fitness) ADDITIONAL PLAYERS:Sadeera samarawickrama,Charith asalanka,Amila aponso,Sachith pathirana,Dushmantha chameera,Lahiru Kumara,Kasun rajitha. OUT:chandimal,thisara perera,kulasekara,dhananjaya silva. SL cannot afford to keep unfit,lazy and test specialists in odi team. Chandimal and Dhananjaya are good test players and they should get chances in test squad. But definitely not in odis and T20s.

  • zaka.ullah.khokhar on June 14, 2017, 0:55 GMT

    Well-done Pakistan .... But improvement required in batting . in semi go aggressive and attacking cricket to dominate against england . fakhar and Faheem should open the innings to attack English bowlers.

  • cricfan05094208 on June 14, 2017, 0:40 GMT

    "A sensational four-over burst from Amir and Junaid ripped the heart out of the Sri Lankan middle order as they went from 161 for 3 to 167 for 7. It was superb fast bowling, evoking comparisons with some of the greats of Pakistan cricket and that it came soon after the innings' second drinks break spoke either to some kind of strategy, or an especially rousing team talk from the captain Sarfraz. Either way, it was match-turning." Clearly shows how captaincy changes the complexion of the team. Well done! Sarfraz. We just need some little minor tweaking to make it again a champion team.