ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / Features

Sri Lanka v Pakistan, World Cup 2011, Group A, Colombo

A match of perfect twists and turns

High-quality batting, real fast bowling, clever legspin, collapses and recoveries plus a few howlers for good measure made for an enthralling encounter

Osman Samiuddin in Colombo

February 26, 2011

Comments: 78 | Text size: A | A

Shoaib Akhtar celebrates after picking up the crucial wicket of Mahela Jayawardene, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, World Cup, Group A, Colombo, February 26, 2011
Shoaib Akhtar's removal from Mahela Jayawardene was one of many highlights in a pulsating match © Getty Images

At last, a big game to match the occasion. The World Cup has needed this and the 50-overs game has needed it as well. This was ODI cricket at its most infectious, when you feel it inside you, when you can't help but respond to its many rhythms and nuances, shift around as it shifts it gears, when each one of the 100 overs of the day is of meaning and consequence.

There was atmosphere at the R Premadasa from the off, music and noise for once. Pakistan's openers came out at Sri Lanka's bowlers and a game was on our hands. Soon there was comedy, in Mohammad Hafeez's run-out, when men lose their wits utterly to the occasion itself.

There was then intelligence and wisdom in the partnership of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. For those who lack an appreciation of subtlety, the middle overs are hell. But how beautifully the pair manipulated angles and found space, a dink here, a deflection there, and how hard they ran. With barely any boundaries, the pair put on a 108-run stand at near enough a run a ball and the pace never felt as if it was slacking. In all they ran 65 singles and ten twos, true descendants of Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad. Simultaneously there was the very physical appreciation of Sri Lankans in the field. Inside the circle they zipped around, like flying fish, hungry.

There was individual genius. In the build-up to this game, Pakistan spoke of Muttiah Muralitharan as if he wasn't Muttiah Muralitharan. He's too old, we play him well enough, he doesn't take wickets against us as he used to. All of this is essentially correct. Pakistan have learnt to play Muralitharan well but he still turned the entire nature of their innings, with his bowling at the death. It was mesmerising stuff, a reminder of his quite immense brain, against a bright young talent, and a batsman set and in real form. Basically it was defence, but beautiful and actually a form of attack.

The evening was lit up by those skills that, in the hands of limited overs, these days can often feel like the cricket equivalent of Didier Deschamps, football's most (in)famous water-carrier: called on for the dirty, unglamorous chores. Two passages of action were outstanding. The first was Shoaib Akhtar, who even at this stage in his career, is capable of recreating the heat every now and again of his early years. As a spectacle, pinging back Mahela Jayawardene's middle stump was difficult to better and it probably turned the game.

In the next over, Shahid Afridi's delicious undoing of Thilan Samaraweera effectively sealed matters. Pace at one end and leg-spin at the other: it is not an unusual combination any more but the richness of its choreography and the vast possibilities it contains has always been brought out best by Pakistan.

Later, we saw how men and collectives can fall apart. Pakistan do it often but there's always a strange calmness about how it happens. To the eye, it doesn't feel like anything is breaking down. No one is running about shouting or screaming, there are smiles and expressionless faces and bemused smiles. Yet easy catches are dropped, run-outs missed, misfields, wides and no-balls bowled, poor decisions made and so on.

Chamara Silva came close to pulling off the most cunning heist so that there was always punch and counter punch, so that for every wicket that fell late on, a boundary was the response, cricket in perfect balance as it should be. Of course the result sets the rest of the tournament up just right. Co-hosts and favourites beaten by dark horses is a story that sells and sells.

Suddenly you look at the schedule and repercussions are discussed. The tournament has meaning. Pakistan will pop up on to a lot of people's radars and they will be talked about because this is a serious result, achieved with an unbalanced side that finds it difficult to finish off games.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo

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Comments: 78 
Posted by   on (March 1, 2011, 5:07 GMT)

TO ALL Sanath bashers ::

Oh no complaining pls !$!$%$$ !! Any chance to win QF , Sanath should bat at #2

"SL will be blown away in 2011 WC QF with the current composition " - Pls note

Posted by   on (March 1, 2011, 5:06 GMT)

Ni3cly WriTTeN .... Insha Allah We Will Perform the Best ...!!!

Posted by emailsjunk on (February 28, 2011, 20:20 GMT)

GL pakistan . Our prayers are with you..thanx lankans for your positive comments .i dono why pak is not always considered as favourite.

Posted by harshthakor on (February 28, 2011, 12:34 GMT)

Congrats to Pakistan for a magnificient peformance writing of critics who wrote them up.Their batting showed great positivity and so did the bowlers in the middle overs.The dark horse conquered the elephant.Pakistan simply fought like tigers.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2011, 10:26 GMT)

Congrats Pakistan.I believe after a solid opening stand the middle order collapse is the reason for loss for sri Lanka.The golden rule in one day cricket is''must take singles'' in every opportunity.It was a delight to watch how Andrew stauss and Bell did it yesterday.I think Sanga and Chamara Silva should have been little bit more efficient with singles.True they batted under difficult conditions,but hope they will correct these errors prior to Aussie match.

Posted by MENDIS_Forever on (February 28, 2011, 9:26 GMT)

U r absolutely right mahela.I don't know why people rate pakistan as non-favourites.They are hot favourites.I am a SL fan,so i'am disappointed to see my country losing.But I am satisfied becoz it's pakistan who defeated us.Sanga, please don't rest Malinga for the Kenyan encounter.Remember 2003?. Wish all subcontinental teams good luck!

Posted by IrshadM on (February 28, 2011, 7:37 GMT)

It is great to see the respect shown by the Lankan fans. I consider the Lankan fans to be the best in terms of behaviour and respect for others. I was in the ground watching the match (am a pakistani fan) and they were a great bunch to be with.

Good luck for both teams and want to see an all asian final (wish SL and Pak play) :)

Posted by ghazanfaralibhayo on (February 28, 2011, 6:35 GMT)

good luck pakistani team for quater finals.and also GOD BLESS U inshallah pakistan will qualify for super 8s and and inshallah win the world cup.

Posted by   on (February 28, 2011, 4:57 GMT)

This is what Pakistan can do to their opposition on their given day.

Posted by   on (February 27, 2011, 18:47 GMT)

Good performances from good players won the match for us. But Kamran Akmal never gonna learn his lesson and repeats same mistakes again and again. Coach and Captain must talk with him over this matter otherwise on his day he can single handedly sink the team in the depth of a defeat. And about Razzaq Razzlar, of course we will be needing his killing services in upcoming big games..Long live my sweet homeland Pakistan

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Osman SamiuddinClose
Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.

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