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Pakistan inflict massive defeat on Sri Lanka

It was a high calibre, clinical performance throughout by Pakistan. Batting and bowling, the clear intent was to inflict a crushing defeat on Sri Lanka, hitherto their nemesis in this tournament. The objective was achieved with ample breath to spare as Sri Lanka capitulated, their innings brought to a shockingly premature close. In just 16.5 overs they subsided to 78 for nine, with Muttiah Muralitharan languishing in hospital with a shoulder injury that could keep him away from cricket for up to three months.

Sri Lanka were beaten by the mind-boggling margin of 217 runs, one of the heaviest defeats in the history of one-day international cricket, allowing Pakistan to walk away with the 2002 Sharjah Cup and the USD120,000 prize money which goes with it.

Pakistan's batsmen gave an outstanding display of controlled aggression and then their bowlers were all over Sri Lanka, relentlessly going for wickets until the last was prised out. Only the three speedsters were required to get them, with Muralitharan unable to bat.

Before this awesome display in the final, the Pakistanis were accused of lacking the killer instinct. They could now be charged with overkill!

Yousuf Youhana (129, 131 deliveries, 8 fours, 3 sixes) made his highest score in limited-overs cricket. He could rate this innings, in lyrically classical mould as it was, along with the best of his Test hundreds. Younis Khan partnered him for a huge 155-run stand for the fifth wicket that took the total to a daunting 295. Imran Nazir, the bright young prospect on a comeback trail, had earlier scored a superb, brisk 63 to put Pakistan on a firm footing.

The bowlers then decimated Sri Lanka. Akram started the rout, bowling the mainstay Marvan Atapattu, who rammed the ball down only to see it spin back on to his wicket. Looking desperate, Jayasuriya was going for his strokes, and so was Kumar Sangakkara. Younis brought on Shoaib Akhtar, who delivered almost immediately. Jayasuriya went after him, miscued the pull and Shoaib had no problem pouching it.

Next over Akram struck again. Pinch-hitter Chaminda Vaas as plumb in front, and from then on it was practically a wicket every over, and the Lankan innings had folded by the 17th. Shoaib Akhtar, bowling with pace and venom, had figures of three for 11, and Younis and Akram three and two wickets respectively.

Earlier, Sri Lanka's fielding effort was overshadowed by a serious shoulder injury to their star off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. Making a routine stop, he rolled and fell on to his left shoulder. He was immediately helped off, in considerable pain by the team physio. He has a ligament injury and is expected to require surgery. Pakistan then went to the highest total of the tournament, a massive 295 for the loss of six wickets. Despite Muralitharan's absence from the attack, this indeed was a most outstanding effort and it turned out to be a title-winning one.

Though Shahid Afridi pressed the self-destruct button once again after a spectacular start, Rashid Latif's promotion to number three proved to be a non-starter and Inzamam-ul-Haq too ran himself out, However, Pakistan were never in trouble. The innings was given momentum with a stroke filled stand of 85 for the third wicket between Nazir and Youhana, and then 155 for the fourth wicket that only ended with two balls of the regulation 50 overs to go.

Trying to find the boundary, Younis holed out on the leg side, and Youhana was dismissed in similar fashion next ball. But by then the deed had been done, and Razzaq, who only got the final delivery to play, punched it for a four.

Youhana and Younis got together at exactly the halfway stage, after Inzamam's dismissal. And they took the total from 136 to 291, providing thrust and substance to the Pakistan innings. It was a very organised effort, sprinkled with boundaries here and there. Though Youhana hit three sixes in the latter part of his innings, giving Chandana, Dharmasena and Vaas the treatment, mostly they scored well-calculated singles and twos, with excellent running between the wickets. Younis has obviously learned his lesson well, and his association with Youhana in a long stint at the wicket too may have helped.

With the asking rate bordering on six an over from the start, Sri Lanka needed some luck combined with great batting to clinch the issue. They got neither, and were blasted off in short order.