The "black magic" of Muttiah Muralitharan continued to haunt the Pakistanis as Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in the opening match of the Sharjah Cup one-day cricket tournament by 41 runs here on Monday. Scores: Sri Lanka 242 for 9; Pakistan 201 all out in 45.5 overs.
The veteran off spinner, as was expected, had the lion's share in his team's convincing victory, claiming 3 for 27 in 10 overs and also participating in the dismissal of Yousuf Youhana, whom he caught off Buddhika Fernando for a duck.
Pakistan never looked like a winning combination from the start. When they came out to chase Sri Lanka's 242 for 9 their body language clearly indicated that they had not yet got rid of the "Murali syndrome" afflicted in Lahore last month in the final of the Asian Test championship.
So obvious was this effect that a cool customer like Inzamamul Haq, who is seldom tempted to play rash and lofted shots early in his innings, skied the very first ball of Murali's first over for a six. Inzi probably wanted to convince himself that he was neither afraid nor cared about his adversary.
As luck would have it, Muralitharan avenged the "humiliation" in his third over when Romesh Kaluwitharana smartly stumped Inzamam for 37.
Except for Abdul Razzak (56) and Rashid Latif (41 from 44 balls) no other Pakistani batsmen showed the guts to face the seasoned off spinner.
Pakistan lost two early wickets, Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan were sent back packing when the score was only 29. They never recovered from that shock. For Sri Lanka, Buddhika Fernando and Jayasuriya captured two wickets each while Chaminda Vaas, Zoysa and Arnold got one each.
Earlier, Sri Lanka after winning the toss, elected to bat first. The decision in the end proved correct, although their 242 for 9 in 50 overs at that time did not look like a difficult score and was surely achievable. As a matter of fact Pakistan should have been able to contain the Lankans on or about 225 but in the final analysis even that total would not have made any difference to the score.
Skipper Sanath Jayasuriya's 87 (from 78 balls) with the help of 10 boundaries and 3 sixes, set the pace and was in the end rewarded with the man of the match award in addition to the highest scorer's and most boundaries awards. His good work was carried forward by the ever-dependable Russel Arnold who contributed a useful 57, ably supported by Upal Chandana, who scored a breezy 30 in as many balls.