Pakistan rolled to an easy seven wicket triumph over Sri Lanka in a puerile final round robin game at the seventh Pepsi Asia Cup in Dhaka this evening. Set a target of 193, Yousof Youhana was the prime mover in the Pakistani reply as the Lankans tried everything to nip his budding second wicket stand with Mohd. Wasim, including an attempt by Upul Chandana to physically incapacitate Youhana with a throw that homed in on his elbow as he raced between the wickets.
The batsman was in no mood to forgive that assault on his person as he carved out an unbeaten 90, hitting a six each off Aravinda and Jayusiriya at either end of the ground, besides stroking eight boundaries. It took Youhana's tournament tally to 270 at an average of 270.00! Wasim had been seen off by Muralitharan for a patient 44, after compiling 107 in association with Youhana, and Inzamam-ul-Haq holed out to midon on the doorstep of victory. The Pakistanis even weathered a ball change two runs adrift before closing the game out unhurriedly in the 49th over.
The Pakistani win was abetted in part by some untypically sloppy running between the wickets by the Sri Lankans after they were inserted. The islanders batted as though in a daze, without a trace of their usual peppiness, excepting for one bright spark when Marvan Atapattu and Upul Chandana joined hands in the middle of the innings. When the fifth run out terminated the innings in the penultimate over, Dav Whatmore bolted into the confines of the dressing room with murder in his eye. If looks could kill, the Sri Lankans would not have emerged into the twilight to take the field.
Although Pakistan rested three of their biggest cannons, Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram and Abdur Razzaq, the Lankans took the field in full earnest. Chandana returned for Dilshan and Sajeewa de Silva was given an outing in place of his fellow left arm seamer, Nuwan Zoysa. Shoaib Malik knocked the middle stump clean out of the ground from short mid wicket to send Aravinda de Silva packing for 2 but Sanath Jayasuriya briefly threatened to impose his stamp on the proceedings, spanking five boundaries in a run a ball 28, until Mahmood got him to topedge an intended pull to Arshad Khan at mid off. Four runs later, providence smiled on Marvan Atapattu, then on 10, as he flicked Mohd. Akram with pinpoint precision to mid wicket where Mohd. Wasim contrived to floor the offering.
While Pakistan's catching woes continued to spill over from the last match, one man lifted them in the field with some spectacular athleticism. Imran Nazir is a pure joy to watch whether he's firing from the batting crease or prowling in the environs of point. Vice captain Mahela Jayawardene was taken out cheaply by Mahmood but Atapattu and Russell Arnold added exactly 50 for the fourth wicket as Sri Lanka mounted a slow recovery. The run outs, in quick sequence, of Arnold and Romesh Kaluwitharana, put short shrift to any ambitious restoration plans.
Atapattu and Chandana added 62 in under 12 overs as the latter provided some sparse entertainment to the multitudes, executing a six off Shoaib Malik and then belting paceman Shabbir Khan over long on for another. Atapattu had been a picture of sobriety, passing 50 in 89 balls, but a delightful roll of the wrists to beat fine leg indicated that his appetite had now been whetted. When Nazir at point sent him on his way for 62 (105 balls) with a glorious diving snaffle, which had to be confirmed by TV umpire Akhter Uddin Shahin, the innings rapidly went downhill. The last five wickets plunged for 25 runs as Shoaib Malik, the other bundle of energy on the field, took two catches to add to the two run outs he effected earlier. Chandana made a gallant 46 (57 balls) while Azhar Mahmood, returning after a long injury layoff, took three scalps for minimal cost.