Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd T20, Dubai December 13, 2013

SL retain top ranking with series-levelling win

Sri Lanka 211 for 3 (Perera 84, Dilshan 48, Sangakkara 44*) beat Pakistan 187 (Sharjeel 50, Senanayake 3-27) by 24 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Passive on Wednesday, punishing on Friday - Sri Lanka's top order were fearsome in their defence of the top Twenty20 team ranking, as they slammed 211 for 3 to set up a 24-run, series-levelling win. The total was the highest ever against Pakistan, and was held together by Kusal Perera's 59-ball 84, which began in a breakneck 100-run stand with Tillakaratne Dilshan, and finished in a blazing 78-run partnership with Kumar Sangakkara in the late overs.

Sri Lanka's reticence in the first match had allowed Pakistan's bowlers to strike a comfortable rhythm, but this time, their intent to define the action was unmistakable from the outset. Pakistan played two inexperienced seam bowlers in their attack once more, but Sri Lanka's openers shredded had Bilawal Bhatti's confidence and pummelled Usman Khan by the end of the Powerplay.

A six and a four over point off Perera's swift blade heralded the onslaught, before Tillakaratne Dilshan joined the melee with a scoop over fine leg, off his fourth ball. There was rarely a second's respite for Pakistan after that.

Perera and Dilshan were severe when the bowlers strayed, but many Pakistan frailties were also of the batsmen's own making. Dilshan was the more forceful partner in the opening stand, and the ease with which he hit to unconventional parts of the ground forced field changes that made other, more familiar areas accessible. It is exactly the sort of dynamic Sri Lanka have hoped to achieve with this hyper-aggressive pair. Nothing quite spoils an opposition game plan like a rampant opening stand. Once the bowling was despatched to the boundary, poor deliveries almost invariably followed.

In between the boundaries, Perera could not turn over the strike as effortlessly as Dilshan, but he gained ground with brief, calculated surges. Afridi had delivered his first over for eight runs, but Perera was determined not to allow the bowler to settle. He made room to chop the third ball of the tenth over for four, before running down the pitch to swipe the next delivery through square leg.

Still unsatisfied, he advanced again to play perhaps his most violent stroke of the evening - a whip-like slog that fetched the ball from outside the off stump and sent it into the midwicket stands. Afridi had been the most miserly man in Pakistan's attack in the first match, but the fact that he bowled no more than two overs in the second makes plain the dramatic shift in Sri Lanka's batting mentality.

Dilshan fell to a reverse-slog sweep after the score reached triple figures - his ambition getting the better of him perhaps, leaving him two short of a fifty. Seekkuge Prasanna was promoted to No.3 on debut, and made good on his pinch-hitter billing with an 8-ball 21.

Sangakkara's increasing prowess in limited-overs cricket quickened Sri Lanka's already rapid progress, towards the end of the innings, as he peppered the fine-leg fence with his lap-scoop, and hit imperiously down the ground as well. Perera built towards a crescendo alongside him, launching Usman for consecutive sixes in the penultimate over, but he was run out for his highest international score on the final ball of the innings, after Sri Lanka had crossed 200 earlier in the over.

Pakistan burned white hot in patches of their reply but, dramatic though these surges were, none were sustained for long enough to suggest they would complete what would have been the biggest Twenty20 chase in history. In his third Twenty20, Sharjeel Khan alone among Pakistan's top order married belligerence to good judgement, and he prospered through the early overs while team-mates lost their nerve, and their wickets, at the other end. Two gargantuan sixes off Prasanna in the tenth over took Sharjeel to 50 off 24 balls but, perhaps a little excited by the occasion, he walked across his stumps on the next ball and let an innocuous full toss bowl him around the legs.

The task was too steep for an in-form Shahid Afridi as well, and though he mauled Prasanna himself - helping plunder 25 from the 12th over - he sent one high off the top-edge on 28, which Sangakkara initially overran, then corrected brilliantly, to snatch with one glove.

Sohail Tanvir waged his own, valiant battle, largely with Saeed Ajmal for company, but even with a wet ball, affected by dew, Sri Lanka managed enough decent deliveries to protect their massive total. The ninth-wicket stand of 63 brought Pakistan to within 29 runs of victory with two overs remaining, but Lasith Malinga ensured his team would not falter at the close. Sachithra Senanayake took 3 for 27.

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

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