Sling-arm fast bowler Lasith Malinga grabbed five wickets in a devastating final spell to lead Sri Lanka to a 12-run win over defending champions Pakistan in the opening match of the Asia Cup in Fatullah on Tuesday.
Pakistan, chasing Sri Lanka’s competitive total of 296-6, seemed to be cruising at 242-4 in the 43rd over following a fifth-wicket stand of 121 between skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal.
However, Malinga turned the tables, finishing with 5-52, as Pakistan lost their last six batsmen for 42 runs to be bowled out for 284 in the penultimate over of the day-night match.
Akmal hit 74 off 72 deliveries, which included seven fours and three sixes, and Misbah made 73, but Pakistan were unable to apply the finishing touches as pressure mounted on the lower-order batsmen.
Sri Lanka’s innings revolved around opener Lahiru Thirimanne’s 102 from 110 deliveries, his second one-day international hundred, and useful contributions from Kumar Sangakkara (67) and skipper Angelo Mathews (55 not out off 50 deliveries).
Sri Lanka were at 204-2 in the 36th over when Pakistan slowed the pace by grabbing four wickets in the space of nine overs.
Thirimanne and Sangakkara compiled Sri Lanka’s highest second-wicket partnership against Pakistan, adding 161 after Kusal Perera fell in the eighth over for 14.
Thirimanne, promoted to open the innings in the absence of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan, hit 11 fours and a six before he was bowled by Saeed Ajmal in the 36th over.
Sangakkara continued the awesome batting form he showed during the preceding bilateral tour of Bangladesh, where he scored 319 and 105 in the second Test in Chittagong, and 128 in the second one-day international in Dhaka.
The left-hander hit eight boundaries for his 84th one-day half-century before he gifted away his wicket, pulling a short ball from Gul to Ahmed Shehzad at midwicket.
Mathews said he owed the dramatic win to the top-order batsmen and Malinga.
“I still think we were 20 runs short considering the start Thirimanne and Sangakkara gave us, but in the past we’ve won close games and it was good to come out on top again,” the Sri Lanka captain said.
“Malinga has been our best bowler for the past few years. He is our go-to man whenever we are under pressure and he did it again,” Mathews added.
Sharjeel Khan gave Pakistan a flying start, scoring 26 of the 28-run stand for the first wicket with Shehzad.
Shehzad was bowled by debutant left-arm spinner Chaturanga de Silva for 28, and Mohammad Hafeez was LBW to Mathews for 18 as Pakistan slipped to 83-3 in the 14th over.
It soon became 121-4 as Sohaib Maqsood (17) pulled a short ball from Sachithra Senanayake to De Silva on the midwicket fence.
However, Misbah and Akmal launched a brilliant fightback to raise Pakisan’s hopes, before Malinga stepped in to steer Sri Lanka to victory.
Misbah said he was disappointed by the loss considering his team was in a sound position during his stand with Akmal.
“We had six wickets in hand and we should have won this game,” he said. “There was nothing in the wicket for the bowlers and this total should have been chased.”
India played hosts Bangladesh at the same venue yesterday and at press time, Bangladesh had racked up 279-7 in the first innings with India yet to bat. Captain Mushfiqur Rahim hit 117.
Afghanistan are the fifth team in the tournament, which decides the regional champions in one-day cricket.