Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Jayasuriya spins a fatal web

Sri Lanka 287 for 7 (Sangakkara 68, Atapattu 66) beat Pakistan 168 (Butt 40, Jayasuriya 5-17) by 119 runs

Under lights at the Gaddafi in Lahore, Sri Lanka held aloft the Paktel Cup. They had won when it mattered most, and had weathered every crisis of the day. The dew factor, that scourge of bowlers under lights at this ground, was made irrelevant as they kept the pressure on Pakistan's stroke-makers, who stumbled, crumbled and hit the dust.

It was a redemption of sorts for Sanath Jayasuriya (5 for 17), for he made the ball dance, and the Pakistanis who took him lightly fell flat. He had failed earlier that day, as his teammates set about building a total of 287, but now he and Upul Chandana struck repeatedly, thrusting, bouncing, turning, and the batsmen committed one folly after another on their way to a 119-run defeat.

Pakistan had started hopefully with bat and ball, first removing Sri Lanka's openers for little and then nullifying the opening attack with youthful vigour. In both cases, Sri Lanka first got a toe-hold in the door, before blasting it wide open. The morning recovery was steady. The one later was more dramatic. Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed raced away because the bowlers were unsteady in line and length, offering width and the boundaries that went with them. Soon 40 runs had been scored.

Dilhara Fernando then took the ball in his hands, and after making the sign of the cross, dismissed a bewildered Hameed with his very first ball: a straight ball clipped his bat and slammed into leg stump. Then Chandana floated a delivery that Butt drove at, and he missed, but it turned in and hit the wicket. He had played comfortably, with arrogance even, but it was a misjudgement that later made clear how difficult the conditions and the bowlers were.

Inzamam-ul-Haq swung at Chandana on his second ball, and dismissed it with power to midwicket. Chaminda Vaas was brought in, and Sri Lanka's most experienced bowler immediately sold Inzamam a dummy. He inserted a slip, but swung the ball in to have him leg-before (91 for 3). Then Yousuf Youhanna wandered out of his crease and was stumped off Jayasuriya, who removed Abdul Razzaq and a disdainful Shahid Afridi as well. Moin Khan (14) swept powerfully but valiantly; he needed men to fight alongside. Chandana had him too (150 for 8).

The morning had not started well for Sri Lanka. They were nervous. And why not? Their away record was skewed. They had lost to Pakistan twice in recent days. And the Gaddafi was supposed to be hell for bowlers under lights. Eager to get off the mark, Saman Jayantha ran down the wicket in the first over but Jayasuriya, who fell soon after for a scratchy 21 (35 for 2), turned him away too late.

Marvan Atapattu and Kumar Sangakkara joined hands and carefully settled in. They drove with caution, and ran runs with great risk; Pakistan's fielders hurled themselves around, and threw the ball with frightening power. While Atapattu eschewed risk at other times, Sangakkara cut, swept and drove the ball with the smile of a man who had crossed a thousand runs for the season. Shoaib Malik had Atapattu (66) stumped off a wide, but by then the batsmen had put on 106 runs.

The ground resonated with the sound of their languid strokes, and a few spectators cheered them on. Sangakkara (68) fell soon after, knocking a ball onto his stumps, but Mahela Jayawardene (49) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (39) hurried, and used the pace of the ball to score boundaries; the region between point and third man was active towards the end of the innings. To the bowlers' credit, they did not lose the plot. To a man, they stuck to their task, and perhaps it was this rigidity that did them in.