Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 1st T20, Dubai December 11, 2013

Afridi leads Pakistan to tense win


Pakistan 146 for 7 (Afridi 39*, Malinga 3-26) beat Sri Lanka (Mathews 50) by three wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Maturity is an adjective that, at best, can only be sporadically applied to Shahid Afridi, but it was the hallmark of his blitz against Sri Lanka, as he struck an unbeaten 39 from 20 to lift his side to a three-wicket win in Dubai. Arriving at the crease with 50 to get off 35, Afridi was discerning in his attack, even as wickets continued to fall at the other end. The crowd may remember the big blows that carved chunks from the required total, but Afridi's thoughtful singles were as vital to Pakistan's victory, as he lionised the strike while Pakistan's remaining batting talent dwindled, largely thanks to Lasith Malinga, who took his best Twenty20 haul in over a year.

Afridi had been instrumental with his sharp, varied legspin as well, conceding only 20 from his four overs as Sri Lanka spluttered to 145 for 5. Though this score was only five less than captain Dinesh Chandimal had hoped for at the toss, it seemed insufficient on a decent batting surface, not given to extravagant turn. Mohammad Hafeez' hope that dew would hamper the side bowling second also came to fruition, as Sri Lanka delivered occasional shockers that sealed their fate.

Two sixes from Afridi off Nuwan Kulasekara's 16th over was his first definitive play, as he walloped a knee-length full toss high into the stands, before crashing one over deep cover when Kulasekara resigned himself to going full and wide. After that over Pakistan needed 29 off 24, with five wickets in hand, but immediately, Malinga's four-run over, in which he also claimed a wicket, reclaimed ground for Sri Lanka.

Thirteen runs off Thisara Perera's 18th over, though, all but secured the result for Pakistan. Malinga delivered another miserly six deliveries in between, but with six needed off the final over, Afridi knelt and swept Kulasekara's first ball over long-leg.

Before Afridi arrived, Pakistan's leisurely innings had not seemed so different from Sri Lanka's. Both sides had largely progressed at around 6.5 an over, with several batsmen earning starts but falling before achieving a substantial score. Sharjeel Khan plowed on through the early overs, as he and Hafeez put on 57 for the second wicket, but they both fell against the run of play. Sohaib Maqsood had also seemed promising in his 13.

Mathews had rode good fortune to his 34-ball 50, surviving an almost-plumb lbw shout off Afridi on 17, before being dropped in the 18th over, in which he also made his most dramatic gains. In his fourth Twenty20, right-armer Bilawal Bhatti pitched full and then short early in the over, and Mathews took consecutive boundaries in front of square on the leg side. The next ball was back of a length and Mathews' top-edged heave should have been caught by Hafeez, running back from cover, but he failed to settle under it. Mathews would strike one more to the fence, taking the over-tally to 18.

Hafeez had known his experienced slow bowlers held the key to restricting Sri Lanka, and he began the bowling himself, before bringing Ajmal and Afridi on in the middle overs to keep Sri Lanka's modest run-rate in hand. Only the occasional loose delivery marred the Powerplay overs, in which a vital dynamic was established: if Sri Lanka wanted boundaries, they would largely have to manufacture them at some peril.

Aside from that Bhatti over, Pakistan stamped down on every Sri Lanka surge, as the batsmen rarely found release apart from when they skipped down the track or played pre-meditated strokes. It did not help that signs of rust were evident for almost every Sri Lanka batsman. Kusal Perera and Kumar Sangakkara were timing the ball well, but neither excelled in shot placement, and both departed trying to find spaces in the outfield. Though Mathews' power sent his big strokes to the fence, he will also reflect that it was far from his most fluent knock.

Mahela Jayawardene's absence allowed Dinesh Chandimal to push himself up to a more-favoured No.3, but although he hit his first Twenty20 score in excess of 15 in over two years, he was trapped in front for a run-a-ball 22. The ball that drifted in and straightened from Afridi was almost the right-handed equivalent of Kusal's dismissal, for 15, to Ajmal.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Asif on December 17, 2013, 6:14 GMT

    Insha Allah Pakistan will win ODI series against Sri Lanka.

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2013, 7:18 GMT

    Well done Afridi 4 superb performance....I couldn't understand why Hafeez give only one over to Usman khan by doing this his confidence level must be low he must hve given more overs to show his skills and Hafeez should stop to play the future of young players and i couldnt justfy Sohail tanveer inclusion while we hve better bowler thn him he has strange action with no speed....!!!!

  • Dummy4 on December 13, 2013, 6:56 GMT

    well done Afridi 4 the superb performance....I couldnt understand why hafeez gve only one over to usman khan he shouldnt play with the future of Pakistan his confidence level must be down bcuz of Hafeez stupid dicission...we need to gve youngster fair chance to show the skills...And i dont knw why sohail tanveer getting always chance while we hve much better bowler then him he has strange action with no speed....!!!!!

  • mohammad on December 13, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    SL is a good team and can win a match against Pak, but they probably think Pak is a better side. SL must give up that mentality that Pak is a better side. I think SL will win the next match. I like to see 1-1, then next match will be more interesting. SL has better fielding unit.

  • uzma on December 12, 2013, 23:01 GMT

    well played lalla keep it up... as a pakistan fan i want my team to win but my heart goes to the lankan team as they are my second favourites love u guys...

  • fahad on December 12, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    I dont knw why people r criticizing Hafeez for batting second. I think if we were bowling second, the dew would have hurt our spinners. Secondly, the fast bowlers were going for runs and giving an over to Usman would have damaged pakistan and would have hurt the youngster aswell. In my opinion he shudnt have played the match yet because he still needs to prove himself in domestic cricket.

  • Android on December 12, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    SLPK are really friendly foes. Love to read comments of both sides supporters. Seems SL is second favorite side for Pakistanis and PAK for Sri Lankan fans

  • Nadeem on December 12, 2013, 17:42 GMT

    Pakistan played very well against the no.1 T20 team in the world. It was an evenly matched contest with fantastic display of skill level demonstrated from both teams. Pakistan is gelling well with the induction of fresh blood in all forms. The only thing this team needs is exposure and non stop cricket to prove its mettle. Still Pakistan requires maturity in batting and mental strength. Kaushal p is an exceptional talent from Sri Lanka.he is one of the most powerful strikers of the ball. Good luck to both the teams for the second match.long live cricket.

  • Asad on December 12, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    Its Stunning victory of pakistan team, which is help out in odi series

  • Vs on December 12, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Well played pakistan...Afridi played sensible. and good to see him he lionlised the strike well. while other remaining bating order once again dwindeld...afridi plays vital role with the bat otherwise. he was plagued by constant deterioration with batting in recent..he played with sporadic maturity thats why he became fruition for team..