It was a totally one sided affair in a badly rain-hit match. Reduced overs and a small total were big factors when Pakistan faced hosts Sri Lanka in the first ODI of the 5-match series. The first game is always important as a win would put a lot of pressure on the losing team, who would have to win 3 of the 4 remaining matches for a series win.
The Lankans were in the crease after winning the toss, with a lot of confidence. Jayawardene and Dilshan were in their zone but Umar Gul was right up there with them, bowling a superb first delivery. Jayawardene has no choice but to stay back and block as the ball travelled effortlessly toward the stumps. A brilliant 5 balls later, Sri Lanka were 1 for no loss. Pakistan, who had their momentum going after a win against Lanka in the previous T20 match, were showing amazing resilience in fielding as well. Sohail Tanvir kept up the pressure in the second over as well. 2.1 overs down and Pakistan seemed to have got their break when Dilshan drove a wide one up to cover, completely mis-timing it, but luck favored him as Hafeez fumbled, jumping a little too early and dropped it. A sigh of relief by the batsman and the game continued. He wouldn’t be lucky enough to survive again though. Just 2 overs later, a horrible shot saw the ball travel straight to mid-on, where Ajmal caught it easily. Dilshan was out for 5.
Sangakkara was on next and Gul immediately threw everything he had at the veteran, getting himself a maiden over with Dilshan’s wicket. The returning Sohail Tanvir bowled next and two deliveries in, got Jayawardene right where he wanted with a brilliant ball edged straight to the keeper. But celebrations were cut short when the umpire ruled it as a no-ball. Tanvir’s concentration immediately dropped and he gave away a couple of extras in the form of wides that over.
Umar Gul though, was not letting off any steam. His first delivery was brilliantly seamed from off right in front of the middle stump onto Jayawardene’s pads. It looked like it was going to carry onto the leg side but that didn’t matter. The skipper was out for 3. Gul gave away 5 wides in the next delivery. Both Chandimal (new to the crease) and the keeper missed the ball which landed short and carried away to the boundary. After Gul finished his over, Sri Lanka were struggling at 17 for 2, 7 overs down.
Tanvir’s over was next. He gave away a wide in this over but managed to get every other ball right. Just the one run. Umar Gul’s condition seemed to have deteriorated after his ball swung wildly down leg side, gifting the hosts 5 more runs. But 2 dot balls later, he struck again. Nothing special about the delivery, but his consistency in bowling in the right areas paid off. Chandimal tried to slice it and caught an inside edge, straight into the stumps.
Tharanga came onto the crease and was immediately greeted with a brilliant delivery. The ball definitely seemed to touch his bat before going straight to the keeper and there was a huge appeal, but the umpire was not interested.
The first boundary of the innings came after an impatient 11 overs for the Lankans. Sangakkara took his time, reacting perfectly at the right moment and cut it to deep backward point for 4 runs. He was starting to look better when a pace Yorker by Sami caught him leg before wicket. Just one run later, Angelo Mathews fell to Sami. Misbah-ul-Haq was waiting for it at 1st slip. Sri Lanka were now at 41 for 5, 21 of those runs coming from extras.
Thirimanne and Tharanga had a lot of work cut out for them. The run rate was deteriorating slowly and steadily and in the 17th over, it started raining. This might have been a blessing in disguise for the Lankans, who were struggling to score a run every over. The crowd didn’t mind the rains at all and were dancing merrily while getting drenched. A little over half an hour later, the game was on again.
Tharanga looked to be in a better form, hitting a boundary, but then again, it was a poor delivery by Sami. It looked like players who hit boundaries were jinxed and in the next over, Tharanga played a horrible shot and got out when he was supposed to get some stability back into the team. Perera was up next.
After about twenty minutes of play, the rains hit back harder. Another 45 minute delay would give the teams some more time to discuss their strategy before they headed out to play again. More runs had started to come in but Perera was given LBW. A bad decision by the umpire on this one, there was clearly a thick edge before it hit the pads. Perera was not too happy. Lanka were 81 for 7 after 28 overs.
Kulasekara came to bat next, and after 3 maiden overs in a row, a few runs and a couple of misfields, it started to rain for the third time. Play had to be stopped for more than an hour, decreasing the overs to 42 a side. With 5 overs remaining, Lanka pushed the pedals a little bit and managed to get to 135 and losing Kulasekara in the final over. They didn’t look in control at all for even a second in their innings, and their bowlers would have to pull a miracle to win this. Pakistan needed 136 in 42 overs.
Malinga started the difficult attack against Pakistani openers Hafeez and Azhar Ali. There was no place for even a single mistake and the men in green made use of just that, getting a boundary from the third ball. Kulasekara gave away 7 runs in his over, the pressure clearly showing. Malinga took Azhar Ali out in the third over with a thin outside edge, and the ball carried onto Sangakkara.
Younis Khan came up and showed he meant business with a boundary. Kulasekara and Malinga slowed things down in the next couple of overs and in the 8th over, Kulasekara got the wicket of Younis Khan with a screamer, hitting the top of the middle stump. But Hafeez, who was scoring a lot, was still there and the game was beginning to slip out of Lanka’s hands. Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq made his way to the crease.
The Lankans got three maiden overs in a row, but they needed wickets. Pakistan were 76 for 2 by the 19th over. Herath finally got the breakthrough, getting the important wicket of Hafeez, who was on a roll. A brilliant delivery went right through a charging Hafeez into Sangakkara’s hands, who stumped him out quickly.
Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq had got one thing straight. They had all the time in the world to score around 50 runs, so they were in no hurry. Akmal though was managing to get a boundary every other over. It was like they were doing 35km/h in top gear, but it was getting the job done.
Akmal suddenly picked up the pace and Pakistan were nearly there when Misbah-ul-Haq was run out. With just 2 runs to get in more than 8 overs, there was no need for the risk. Afridi came on to score the winning run and finished the Lankans off in the 34th over.
It was a hard-fought victory with a lot of disturbances, but Pakistan dominated it from start to finish. Umar Gul was awarded the Man of the Match award for his excellent spell. Now, it is onto the second ODI on Saturday. Will the Lankans bounce back or will Pakistan continue their impressive form? Watch and find out.