Pacemen Rao Iftikhar took a career-best 4-42 to help Pakistan restrict Sri Lanka to 219 in the first day-night international at the National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan, yesterday.
The 28-year-old medium pacer removed top-scorer Kumar Sangakkara (49), skipper Mahela Jayawardene (1) and Thilan Thushara (0) to derail the visitors who had a big start of 71 after winning the toss and opting to bat.
Iftikhar came as first change in a four-pronged pace attack and build on to an aggressive first spell by pace partner Umar Gul, who removed openers Tillakaratne Dilshan (42) and Sanath Jayasuriya (38) to put brakes on the tourists’ march.
Dilshan, included in the team after his twin hundreds in a Test against Bangladesh earlier this month, was dropped at 17 off paceman Shoaib Akhtar who went wicketless in his seven overs.
Dilshan hit seven boundaries off 33 deliveries before Gul had him caught by Salman Butt off a miscued hook.
Gul then trapped Jayasuriya before Iftikhar dislodged an out-of-form Jayawardene. Sangakkara held the innings through a 54-run fourth wicket stand with Chamara Kapugedera, who made 27. Sangakkara hit four boundaries during his 70-ball knock.
Sangakkara missed his half-century by one run when he played a rising delivery from Iftikhar straight into the hands of Butt at gully. Iftikhar’s previous best was 4-59 against the West Indies at Abu Dhabi last year.
Nuwan Kulasekara chipped in with a useful 24 before Gul had him caught behind to finish with 3-30.
In related news, Mohammad Asif, who opted out of the Indian Premier League (IPL) at his own request, must still be cleared of doping charges if he wants to play for Pakistan again, an official said yesterday.
The controversial fast bowler, 26, was released from his US$650,000-a-year IPL contract by Delhi Daredevils late on Monday after serving just one year of his three-year deal in the Twenty20 tournament.
Asif is due to appear before an IPL drugs tribunal in Mumbai on Saturday after testing positive for the banned steroid nandrolone during the tournament’s opening season.
“We have released him, but I suppose Asif still needs to have his name cleared if he wants to play official cricket,” Delhi Daredevils chief operating officer Amrit Mathur told reporters.
Asif was detained at Dubai airport for 19 days last June after 0.24g of opium were found in his wallet. After being deported to Pakistan, he was told he had also failed an IPL test.
The Pakistan Cricket Board has suspended Asif indefinitely from playing official cricket pending the IPL hearing.
The talented seamer has taken 51 wickets in 11 Tests, 36 wickets in 31 one-dayers and 12 wickets in nine Twenty20 internationals since his debut in 2005.
Asif said in a written statement that he voluntarily opted out of his IPL contract to concentrate on playing for Pakistan again.
“Due to personal reasons, I am having to take this step, and definitely it has not been easy as I still have a contract valid for another two seasons, with lucrative financial benefits,” Asif said.
“I am going through a tremendous amount of pressure,” he said. “My only purpose and wish is to play for my nation Pakistan again, and for that I need to disengage from any other cricket engagements.”