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This triangular tournament, together with the two-Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka that followed, was arranged to fill a gap in Pakistan's international programme following the removal of Zimbabwe's Test status. Sri Lanka played thanks to Bangladesh's willingness to postpone their own series against them, and although the weakness of the Zimbabwe side meant the identity of the two finalists was never in doubt, there was still some hard-fought and, at times, compelling cricket on offer.
Sri Lanka lost both group games to Pakistan but saved their best for last with a crushing win in the final - a real shot in the arm for the players' self-belief in the continuing absence of their injured off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. That victory was especially satisfying for the Sri Lankans as it came in the wake of stinging criticism of the team's management and, by implication, its senior players, from the chairman of selectors, Ashantha de Mel. De Mel claimed on the eve of the final that the team's management was "selfish" for not giving extended opportunities to the younger squad members. Atapattu kept his own counsel at first, but after the win said de Mel's criticisms had spurred his side on to victory. Both Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara batted beautifully throughout the series, while Chaminda Vaas led the attack impressively.
For the third time in seven weeks - after losing the Videocon final in the Netherlands and the Champions Trophy semi-final in England - Pakistan fluffed their lines on the big occasion after looking impressive in the buildup. Yet their unbeaten form up to the final did disguise some fundamental problems. The absence of Taufeeq Umar, suffering from a lack of match practice, and Imran Farhat, out of favour since making a duck against India in the Champions Trophy, meant Pakistan were left searching desperately for an ideal opening combination. Although Salman Butt hinted at a promising future, the decision to open with Yasir Hameed exposed his shortcomings outside off stump.
Shoaib Malik, however, was a worthy man of the series thanks to his continued development as a one-day batsman and his increasingly useful off-spin, which formed an effective combination with Shahid Afridi's legbreaks in the middle of the innings. But the gloss was taken off when Malik's action was reported to the ICC the day after the final. Another area of concern was the one-day role of Shoaib Akhtar. The debate, which ran throughout the tournament, centred on whether he should open the bowling or come on as first change. Shoaib, for his part, appeared listless for much of the time, even operating off a short run on several occasions. Zimbabwe started the tour before the Champions Trophy in England had finished, which was an indication of the low expectations of a side still shorn of its experienced "rebels". Tinashe Panyangara's form was outstanding,
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