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August 7, 2009
News : Kamran taught me to handle pressure - Umar
News : Naved catch turned game - Bayliss
Preview : Pakistan search for winning formula
Series/Tournaments: Pakistan tour of Sri Lanka
Umar Akmal's maiden international hundred, a rousing unbeaten 102 from 72 balls, and Younis Khan's first half-century as captain took Pakistan to a large total and set up their first win on tour. Batting first has been distinctly advantageous at the Premadasa and so it proved as Pakistan put up a mammoth score and then pressured the Sri Lankan batsmen into self-destruction. Iftikhar Anjum played a major hand, claiming career-best figures as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 175, losing their last seven wickets for 45 runs in 12.3 overs.
The pace was set early by Umar's elder brother Kamran, who ensured the tempo did not flag despite Imran Nazir's early dismissal, but Sri Lanka's spinners struck thrice in less than six overs. Young Umar walked to the crease when Pakistan were 130 for 4, with a struggling captain searching for a partner and only Shahid Afridi to follow. He took the opportunity to prove that not all is as made to believe about Pakistan's domestic set-up. His effervescence complimented Younis' solidity and their 176-run stand paved the way.
Where Nazir, Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq struggled against a combination of tidy bowling and a slow track, Umar appeared comfortable from the get-go. He showed he wasn't going to get bogged down, swinging his seventh delivery - from Ajantha Mendis, no less - over long-on for a six and flicked almost effortlessly. His was a sensible approach, poaching the odd boundary and turning ones into twos while also dominating the perceived weaker bowlers. Finding the narrowest of gaps in the field and always sprinting hard between the wickets, he began rebuilding.
Credit is due to the man at the other end. Younis' innings contained crisp drives and wristy flicks and stolen runs but most importantly it was an effort that allowed Umar to flourish. Around his captain, Umar could play his own game and Pakistan didn't feel the pinch. Pakistan had been hurt in the series by Younis' indifferent form. Today they realised just what a difference runs from him can mean.
Importantly, he quickly assessed conditions and played with a welcome smoothness. Younis' innings was controlled, he ran hard between the wickets, and Pakistan's run-rate lifted to nearly five-and-a-half an over. With Umar rattling along Younis too changed his game. Soon defence turned to single hunting, gliding and efficiently flicking in the gaps.
Umar's half-century came up from 46 balls, after which he upped his strike-rate. Always keen to get back and across and then mow the ball over the on-side, he took consecutive fours off Mendis and then clubbed Lasith Malinga for 13 in the 46th over. Another effortless six off Malinga followed in the 48th over, the back leg lifted to gain power. Younis departed for 89 in the 49th over trying to get six but Umar reached three figures with two balls to spare. You can argue the pressure of winning the series wasn't there, but maiden ODI centuries don't come cleaner than this.
To chase 322 under lights in Sri Lanka a team needs something near a batting miracle. Upul Tharanga (80) played a cool hand to try and keep the required run-rate in check but there was little support. Pakistan's bowlers began by bowling too short - in particular Naved-ul-Hasan - and Tharanga and Sangakkara added 65 in good time. Sangakkara sped away to 39 from 33 balls before he was early into a drive against a slower ball from Anjum and scooped a catch to point.
From here the attack tidied up, Anjum sticking to a decent length and the spinners taking as much pace off the ball as possible. Thilina Kandamby went next, slashing Saeed Ajmal to slip, and a one-handed effort from Naved in the deep took out Chamara Kapugedera. Anjum bowled a lot of deliveries on an awkward length, too short to drive but too full to pull, and was rewarded with 5 for 30. Ajmal tossed the ball up into the rough with good control to take two wickets.
Tharanga played an extension of his half-century in the previous game, accumulating most of his runs by soft-handed steers through the arc between cover and gully. Third man proved a productive area for Tharanga, who didn't take the aerial route much. With his dismissal, feathering Anjum to Kamran, went Sri Lanka's chances. From here on it was a steady procession of wickets and Sri Lanka fell way short of the target.
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