Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam has said that Muttiah Muralitharan's cameo towards the end of the Sri Lankan innings turned the game in their favour. Coming in with Sri Lanka struggling at 173 for 7 in the 45th over, Muralitharan smashed 32 off 15 balls to lift them to 232. The score proved too big a challenge for Pakistan, as they lost the first ODI in Dambulla by 36 runs.
"I don't think you can blame the pitch," Intikhab said. "Every time the ball hit the seam it moved about, but otherwise I don't think it was a difficult wicket to bat on. The history of this wicket is you don't get more than 180 to 190, but it was Muralitharan who turned the game. He hit the ball all over the park, otherwise things would have been different. I don't think Sri Lanka would have got more than 200."
With Sri Lanka opting for the batting Powerplay at the end of the 44th over, Pakistan leaked 63 runs in the last six overs with Muralitharan on song. "We didn't lose the match because of bad batting," Intikhab said. "We lost it in the field today. They were 160 for 7 and the last six overs were a bad time, otherwise things would have been different."
Pakistan decided not to pick the specialist opener, Imran Nazir, and instead sent Shoaib Malik to partner Kamran Akmal. "We took that decision but it didn't work out the way we wanted," said Intikhab. "At times you take a right decision it turns out to be wrong. At times you take a wrong decision and it turns out to be right.
"The reason we brought Malik to open was because he has done it in the past and he was the guy in form. We thought he will do the trick and 29 for no loss wasn't a bad start. However, we lost wickets at the wrong time. We've got to do better than that.
"Again we lacked consistency in batting. We had only one partnership from the tailenders - [Umar] Gul and [Mohammad] Aamer. It was a good effort but in the end we shouldn't have lost this match."