It was a close encounter for the second time. But this time, the results were different. After losing out on their first match, Pakistan were looking for redemption here. Winning the toss on a seemingly slow pitch, they elected to bat first.
Hafeez and Shehzad opened with Kulasekara starting the bowling attack.
A brilliant first ball confirmed that the Lankan ace wasn’t going to take it easy. But Shehzad immediately replied with a boundary off the next ball. The Pakistanis were here to stand and fight.
Shehzad though, was the first to fall to Kulasekara, who caught him leg before wicket. He bowled brilliantly for the rest of the over, getting a maiden as well.
Two overs later, Khalid Latif was run out.Pakistan had started to look dreary.
Udana came to bowl next, with a magical spell, almost getting a wicket. But Umar Akmal managed to keep himself safe. Another maiden. After a couple of overs, Akmal would fall to Lokuarachchi, an LBW again.
It was looking like disaster for Pakistan again. After 9 overs, they were at just 34 with 3 down. But one should never count anyone out in the shortest form of the game where one over can change everything.
Hafeez was given an extra life in the 10th over when he was dropped by Perera, who made a brilliant effort to get to third man, but couldn’t hold on to the ball. Hafeez fell in the next over to Lokuarachchi, caught by Thirimanne. A soft and easy dismissal.
Now, it was the turn of Shoaib Malik and new batsman to the crease Shahid Afridi to set up a decent enough target. The started work on it immediately, bringing the run rate up and scoring the highest runs in an over in the entire innings, 15 runs with Malik hitting three consecutive fours in the 15th over. They worked well till there were just two overs remaining.
Perera got the breakthrough with a brilliant ball to Malik, who was caught by Dilshan. Malik had done his job though, propelling his team to 117 for 5.
Kulasekara slowed it down in the death over, giving 5 runs and getting the wicket of Arafat.
At the end of the innings, Pakistan were 122 for 6. Wasting those overs at the beginning had cost them dearly. They hadn’t looked aggressive for atleast the first 10 overs. But the game was not over.
When the Lankans came down to bat, the pressure immediately showed on Tanvir as he gave away 9 runs in the first over, including a wide. Arafat too faltered when his poor deliveries were send screaming to the boundary. Two fours in his over.
Tanvir bounced back (pun intended) in his next over and made up for his damaging start. 3 overs down, Sri Lanka were 18 for no loss.
It was then that Arafat came back from a disappointing start and took both Sangakkara and Kulasekara out in his over bowling similar balls, both the catches going to Shoaib Malik.
All of a sudden, the tables had turned.
The Lankans somehow managed to keep their run rate up, scoring 5 to 7 runs an over until Afridi, who had done exceptionally well with the bat, bowled Dilshan out.
This wicket slowed the charging Lankans down and after 10 overs, they were 48 for 3. It looked better than what Pakistan had made at this point in their innings. There was still hope.
Afridi got his second with Kapugedera in the 12th over, getting his revenge after the batsman hit the previous ball for a blistering six.
All of a sudden, the pace of the match picked up, with both teams getting one good over and cone bad over consecutively. Hafeez gave away 11 runs in his over but Afridi pulled it right back with just 1 run from his spell.
Chandimal fell to Tanvir in the 15th over with a slower ball.
Things had started to fall apart for the Lankans. With one last minute, last breath effort, they managed to score 8 runs in the 16th over, but fell badly, losing a wicket every over before being sent packing in the last over with 4 balls left. They were all out for 99. Again, it was a game dominated by the bowlers, both teams doing wonderfully. But Afridi and Malik were the clear edge who took the men in green to victory. Afridi was later given the Man of the Match award for his amazing allrounder effort.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan now have one win each, both looking to make a statement before the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka later this year. But for now, they are level.