Pakistan hang on to clinch 11-run win
Pakistan 322 for 5 (Hafeez 122, Maqsood 73, Sharjeel 61) beat Sri Lanka 311 (Kusal 64, Junaid 3-44) by 11 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Misbah-ul-Haq had implored his top order to produce an innings of substance in the approach to the series but even he may not have expected his top four to respond as emphatically as they did. Two young batsmen stroked alluring half-centuries, while Mohammad Hafeez ended his poor form with a canny 122, to set up Pakistan's third-highest total in 115 matches at Sharjah. Misbah had also warned his side that Sri Lanka don't stop fighting, and he perhaps hadn't expected his side to ignore that advice so flatly either.
When they had Sri Lanka at 221 for 7 in the 42th over, Pakistan allowed feeble bowling and inept fielding to creep in, and Seekkuge Prasanna and Sachithra Senanayake produced a courageous 87-run stand that drew Sri Lanka to within 15 runs of the target with eight balls remaining. In the end, the Sri Lankan tailenders could not sustain their fire. Senanayake toe-ended one to deep cover and the chase unraveled quickly after that, handing Pakistan an 11-run victory.
Hafeez had been relatively quiet in the early overs, perhaps aware that he had not passed 35 in his last eight ODI knocks. Despite his caution, his innings did not suffer from lack of intent. Sharjeel's fluent hand at the other end had prised open spaces in the outfield after the mandatory Powerplay and Hafeez mined the gaps conscientiously, even if he had begun scoring with two sleek fours off genuinely poor balls.
Finding singles and twos was to become the hallmark of Hafeez's entire knock. Occasionally he took on the more benign elements of Sri Lanka's attack, like when he blasted a six and a four of Tillakaratne Dilshan in the 20th over, but although he scored at a strike rate comfortably over 90 he had hit only four fours and two sixes in his first 75 runs. The death overs drew a crescendo from him as well but even late in the innings the heavier hits often came when he turned the strike over to the man at the other end. He made an exception when he launched one into the stands behind long-on to reach triple figures for the seventh time in ODIs, and he fell attempting a big shot as well, with only two balls to go in the innings.
Sharjeel Khan's bright half-century had set Pakistan off apace when he posted a bold riposte to Lasith Malinga, who had struck him on the shoulder with the first ball of the fourth over. Sharjeel hooked the next ball into the square-leg stand and then whipped two more leg-side fours in the over, embellishing the promise he had shown in the Twenty20s by making an unruffled run-a-ball 61. The ease with which he struck through the line, though, made the friendliness of the surface plain - and perhaps of the fast bowling as well.
Sohaib Maqsood was just as free-flowing through the middle overs in his sixth ODI, and he set about manipulating the field in step with Hafeez. He hit four sixes - all over wide long-on - but there were only two fours in his 73, which came from 68 balls. His 140-run stand with Hafeez was the biggest in the match, yet it was achieved with such laidback finesse they almost snuck by Sri Lanka, who allowed the game to meander through lack of imagination.
At times, only a perfect yorker seemed immune to being worked away, so Sri Lanka's quicker men attempted plenty of those. They had success with it in the middle overs and Malinga was instrumental in conceding only 25 in the batting Powerplay, but later in the innings they began to miss their length, and Pakistan were unforgiving.
Shahid Afridi walloped two sixes in three balls to help plunder 18 from Suranga Lakmal in the 46th over, on his way to a 12-ball 34. Lakmal had only played because Sri Lanka had bafflingly omitted Nuwan Kulasekara, whose early-overs penetration and experience at the death could not have been missed more sorely.
Senanayake and Prasanna had been Sri Lanka's most economical bowlers, and both men showed why they had been earmarked for long service in the limited-overs teams when they came together with the bat. Pakistan's bowling flagged for sure but the pair made apt use of what remained a good batting pitch and drilled the dross to the fence, relying heavily on their leg-side scoring zones. They benefited from some appalling fielding but as victory became a real prospect towards the end of the innings, Senanayake went for a boundary that he perhaps did not need to attempt at that stage.
Tillakaratne Dilshan was Sri Lanka's key man in Mahela Jayawardene's absence, and it did not bode well for the visitors that he was far from fluent in the early overs. Flat-footed against the fast men and uncertain against spin, Dilshan timed the ball poorly and placed it even worse. He contributed 30 from 43 to a 66-run stand that placed Sri Lanka in a moderate position, but given the firepower in that opening partnership, it was a crucial one to break.
Kusal Perera had less strike early on and was also short on boundaries, but he found the gaps that eluded Dilshan and eventually started to put the balls that fell in his strike zone to the fence. He was especially severe on short deliveries, using his short-arm pull to good effect most notably against Junaid Khan. The singles continued to flow freely and he reached his half-century off 43 balls, but slowed up a touch after that and was lbw for 64 off 68.
Dinesh Chandimal and Angelo Mathews combined for 73 for the fifth wicket to inspire hope, but the top order had not made enough in the opening overs and the quest for quick runs eventually accounted for them both. Chandimal will at least be comforted that 46 is a better score than he had managed in the 14 previous ODI innings, and that during his stay he seemed to reclaim some of the chutzpah that ruled his cricket when he first played for Sri Lanka.
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here