Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st T20, Hambantota

Sami's welcome, Kulasekara's gifts

ESPNcricinfo presents Plays of the Day from the first Twenty20 international between Sri Lanka and Pakistan in Hambantota

Kanishkaa Balachandran in Hambantota

June 1, 2012

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Lahiru Thirimanne made 30, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st T20I, Hambantota
A second reverse sweep off Saeed Ajmal cost Lahir Thirimanne dear © AFP
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Sami's inauspicious comeback
In a 11-year career, Mohammad Sami has been nothing short of an enigma for Pakistan, often going off the radar after spurts of brilliance with the ball. He is no stranger to comebacks, and today marked yet another. Returning after a two-year gap, Sami was given the ball in the fourth over. His first delivery was easily steered down to third man. No damage done. The second was short and wide, which was slashed over point by Kumar Sangakkara for four. He bowled the next one fuller but strayed wide again and Sangakkara smacked it wide of point along the ground. Sami stubbornly refused to vary his pace or length for the fourth and gave Sangakkara another half volley that sailed past point again. Three consecutive fours, 14 for the over. Welcome back to international cricket.

Golden ducks to order
Twenty20 caps are usually not given to players at 33. Shakeel Ansar became the second-oldest player to make his Twenty20 debut for Pakistan, after Inzamam-ul-Haq (36). However, he will also have to live with the dubious distinction of bagging a golden duck on debut. Nuwan Kulasekara was the beneficiary. He invited the slash by bowling short and wide, and Ansar obliged by giving Tillakaratne Dilshan his second catch at backward point in two deliveries - before that, Mohammad Hafeez too had punched a wide one straight to him, off the first ball of the innings.

Thirimanne's false shot
Poor shot selection cost Sri Lanka dear, but the one that stood out was Lahiru Thirimanne's reverse sweep. It's a shot that leaves a batsman walking on air if it comes off well, or hoping for the earth to swallow him if it doesn't. Thirimanne was positive after the top-order wobble, choosing conventional shots to fetch boundaries, but against arguably the best offspinner in the world, he got cheeky. Saeed Ajmal bowled the quicker one and the ball sneaked under the reverse-sweeping bat, thudding into the wicketkeeper's thighs. Lucky escape, but when he attempted the same shot in Ajmal's next over, he didn't pick the doosra and lobbed it straight to short third man.

Fielders on alert
Sri Lanka's batting may have let them down, but their catching didn't. Angelo Mathews, who is no stranger to stunning efforts on the boundary himself, benefitted from a fine show of agility off his bowling: Thisara Perera ran across from third man and then dived full length to his right to send back Shoaib Malik. Kaushal Lokuarachchi's effort wasn't too bad either. Shahid Afridi swung, got a top edge that swirled over short third man, from where Lokuarachchi ran back, turned around and plucked it mid-air.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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