Pakistan raise all-round game in easy win
Magnificent half-centuries from Shoaib Malik, the captain, and Younis Khan propelled Pakistan to a formidable total and a miserly three-wicket spell from Shahid Afridi then choked the life out of the Sri Lankan chase as they romped to a facile 33-run victory at the Wanderers. Sri Lanka had started superbly, with Dilhara Fernando producing an impeccable spell of 2 for 17, but their subsequent nightmare was best summed up by the plight of the legendary Sanath Jayasuriya, pummelled for 64 in his four overs and then knocked over for just five.
Malik and Younis added 101 at a tremendous clip after Pakistan were struggling at 33 for 3. Once again, they got no sort of start, with Salman Butt and Imran Nazir failing to make an impression yet again. Nazir pulled Fernando for a six behind square, but was utterly clueless about a slower ball from Chaminda Vaas that he gently bunted to cover.
Butt got another start, but was cleaned up by a tremendous delivery from Fernando that was timed at 144.5 km/hr. And after Mohammad Hafeez had come in and clipped Vaas for two fours, Fernando delivered another scorcher, a yorker that crashed into leg stump at searing pace.
But with Vaas bowling out and Fernando taken out of the attack after three superb overs, the pressure eased. Younis got going with a pull for four off Lasith Malinga, and Malik greeted Jayasuriya's entrance with a huge swipe that just cleared the man at long-on. Even then, Pakistan had reached just 69 at the halfway stage, scarcely the sort of total that would have given Mahela Jayawardene too many headaches.
It started to unravel for the Lankans after that though, with Gayan Wijekoon and Jayasuriya repeatedly lofted through or over midwicket as the run-rate mounted alarmingly. Younis struck a couple of meaty sixes over midwicket on his way to a 32-ball 50, and Malik followed suit in just 27 deliveries courtesy some scorching strokes down the ground and through the leg side.
Both men departed lofting Malinga into the deep, but there was still time for a 17-run cameo from Afridi, and a crisp contribution from Misbah-ul-Haq, who followed up his splendid knock against India will two mighty sixes in Jayasuriya's final over.
Sri Lanka's pursuit of 190 started in disastrous fashion, with Upul Tharanga top-edging Mohammad Asif to third man before he'd opened his account, and there was further drama in the opening over when a Jayasuriya miscue was dropped by Sohail Tanvir at short fine leg.
Tanvir redeemed himself in the best possible fashion though, yorking Jaysuriya with his very first delivery. That left Kumar Sangakkara and Jayawardene to rebuild the innings, and Sangakkara set about it with a magnificent six over backward point off Asif. His defiance didn't last though, and an unfortunate dismissal - bowled off the arm while going for the pull - really appeared to have put the skids on Sri Lanka.
But after Jayawardene clipped Tanvir for a beautiful six over square leg, Chamara Silva concentrated his energy on Asif's final over. A pull and a cut started it, and when Asif bowled a no-ball, the free hit was hooked for six over fine leg. With Shoaib Malik watching frustrated, Asif was rather harshly called for another no-ball. This time, Jayawardene edged the free hit for four as 22 came from the over.
Chamara Silva greeted Mohammad Hafeez with a sweep for four, but it was soon apparent that the slow bowlers would be Pakistan's trump card. Both Hafeez and Shahid Afridi gave next to nothing away, and the pressure finally told when Jayawardene mowed an Afridi delivery to Umar Gul at deep midwicket. He had made 28, adding 53 with Silva.
Silva was the last hope, but after heaving and then deftly cutting Afridi for two fours to move to 38, he was flummoxed by a full delivery that crashed into the stumps. Jehan Mubarak and Gayan Wijekoon both failed to trouble the scorers, and the Pakistani tactic of saving Gul for the end was amply justified as the match was efficiently closed out.
Tillakaratne Dilshan took three sixes from the penultimate over bowled by Hafeez, but that was of no more than nuisance value after an emphatic statement of intent from Malik's men. For Sri Lanka, it was a rude wake-up call, and they will now most likely have to beat Australia to make the last four.
Dileep Premachandran is associate editor of Cricinfo