Kapugedera pilots Sri Lanka to 2-0 lead
Pakistan got rid of Sri Lanka's batting luminaries without too much trouble, but found Chamara Kapugedera and Thilan Samaraweera impossible to dislodge as the home side eased to a comfortable six-wicket victory and a 2-0 lead in the series. The bowlers had done the hard work earlier, dismissing Pakistan in just 47 overs, and Kapugedera's sixth ODI half-century offered a gentle reminder that there's more to Sri Lanka's batting than the big three in the top order.
The bowlers, with Thilan Thushara taking 3 for 33, had reduced Pakistan to 87 for 7, but two doughty tailend partnerships lifted them to 168. Mohammad Aamer top-scored with 24, but it was extras that was the largest contributor (26) as Sri Lanka got a little sloppy in the final stages. They didn't start well with the bat either, and when Mahela Jayawardene pulled Shahid Afridi to short midwicket, the scoreboard showed 74 for 4.
With the game in the balance, Kapugedera and Samaraweera batted with great composure and class to see it home. Samaraweera square-drove superbly, while Kapugedera drove and pulled with immense power. One pull off Afridi went for six, and he then crashed Umar Gul through cover to get to his half-century. By the end, it was just a procession.
Sanath Jayasuriya had provided the early impetus, blazing away as only he can, but the loss of two wickets in an over, one of them to a silly run-out, pushed Sri Lanka back. There was another fine spell from the 17-year-old Aamer, leaving Jayasuriya to target Abdul Razzaq. He was first flayed over cover, and then two short deliveries were summarily dismissed with short-arm pulls. Upul Tharanga was far from comfortable though, and when Aamer tempted him into a half-hearted drive, Nasir Jamshed held on at slip.
Jayasuriya then survived a strong shout for leg-before from Aamer, before Gul was greeted with a miscued pull for four. With Kumar Sangakkara struggling though, the run rate dropped, and a moment of madness between two experienced pros gave Pakistan a route back into the game. Jayasuriya pushed one to mid-off and half-set off, but when he stopped, Sangakkara was still haring down without looking. Two balls later, Jayasuriya carved one to deep point, where Umar Akmal held his nerve to hold a difficult catch.
Umar had shown glimpses of class with the bat as well, but like several of his team-mates, he couldn't build on a start. Pakistan had made two changes from the side that lost by 36 runs two days earlier, but they started disastrously. Jamshed, who had come in along with Umar at the expense of Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq, sparred at a Nuwan Kulasekara delivery that was moving away from him, and Jayawardene took a smart catch over his head at second slip.
Kamran Akmal eased a couple of lovely drives in front of the wicket, but any thought of consolidation disappeared as two wickets fell with the score on 21. First, Kamran edged one that slanted across him for Samaraweera to take an excellent tumbling catch at first slip, and then Shoaib Malik was unfortunate to be given out leg-before after being struck high on the pad. Two wickets for Thushara, and Sri Lanka right on top.
On a green-tinged pitch where the ball darted around, Younis Khan was in all sorts of strife against Lasith Malinga and it was left to Umar to highlight his potential with a couple of fluent drives on either side of the wicket. But soon after drinks, Sri Lanka struck again, with Umar flailing at a wide one from Angelo Mathews. Sangakkara held on to that chance, and when Thushara came back for a sixth over and had Fawad Alam top-edging a cut behind, Pakistan were once again facing acute batting embarrassment.
Younis found it tough to turn the strike over, facing 73 balls for his 23, and his dismissal was as tame as the innings itself, chipping Muttiah Muralitharan to midwicket. Afridi was held back, but it didn't prove a successful gambit as a big heave off Murali went only as far as deep square leg.
Razzaq and Gul kept the bowlers at bay for 10 overs without making a big dent on the scoreboard, but again, Sri Lanka shut off the escape route. This time, it was brilliant fielding, with Malinga Bandara, the substitute fielder, catching Gul short with a direct hit from gully. Razzaq then slapped Sanath Jayasuriya to long-on, and it was left to Aamer, who showed impressive commitment once again, and Saeed Ajmal to steer the side past 150. Even in bowler-friendly conditions, it was nowhere near enough.
Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo