Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi again inspired his side with the ball for an 11-run victory to stretch a winning record against Sri Lanka in the World Cup and disappoint a partisan home crowd.
Afridi, who took his first World Cup five-wicket haul in the previous match against Kenya, captured four for 34, which included his 300th one-day international wicket when he dismissed Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara for 49.
Sri Lanka, chasing Pakistan’s total of 277-7, replied with 266-9. They have now lost seven times to their subcontinental neighbors in the World Cup, falling in 1975, 1983 (twice), 1987 (twice) and 1992.
Man-of-the-match Afridi said: “It was a big game and the boys all knew how big the game was. The boys were a little too relaxed and we need to tell them on this kind of stage they should not relax.”
His opposite number, Sangakkara, tried to look on the bright side.
“Any defeat is tough, but quite a few positives to take. I thought we bowled pretty well on a pretty flat track. Unfortunately, we lost three wickets at the wrong time,” Sangakkara said.
Sri Lanka got off to a good start with openers Upul Tharanga (33) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (41) putting together 76, but got bogged down in the middle overs and despite a late spurt toward the target, fell agonizingly short.
Chamara Silva led a late onslaught with a top score of 57 and Nuwan Kulasekara hit a quick 24 off 14 balls, but Sri Lanka had left their run chase a little too late.
Pakistan stalwarts Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq shared a century partnership after Afridi had won the toss and chose to bat first.
The pair came together after Pakistan were reduced to 105 for three and they provided a solid foundation for Pakistan’s eventual testing target.
Earlier, Mohammad Hafeez (32) and Kamran Akmal were left wondering which of them was out after a mix-up left them both comically stranded at the same end.
Kamran Akmal scampered to the striker’s end for a quick single when Hafeez swept the ball behind the wicket off spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in the 13th over.
Hafeez did not move, even after Sri Lanka wicketkeeper and skipper Kumar Sangakkara’s initial wayward throw flew well over Muralitharan. Angelo Mathews successfully returned it to the bowler for the simplest of run outs of, it turned out, Hafeez.
Kamran Akmal did not last for much longer and he fell to Rangana Herath after being easily stumped for 39.
Once Younus and Misbah came together, they employed a safety-first strategy and nudged the ball through gaps to pick up singles and twos instead of trying to score boundaries against tight bowling and sharp fielding by Sri Lanka.
Younus struck four fours in his knock of 72, before he top-edged a sweep off Herath to Mahela Jayawardene at short fine-leg.
Misbah kept a cool head and played a solid innings to remain unbeaten on 83, with six fours.