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Asia Cup: Pakistan stun the Lankans

877   //    15 Mar 2012, 21:30 IST

After a fantastic Commonwealth Bank Series, Sri Lanka’s fortunes have surely taken a nose dive in the ongoing Asia Cup as the islanders slipped to back to back defeats. After being beaten by India in their opening fixture, Sri Lanka was comprehensively beaten by a resurgent Pakistani side by six wickets at Mirpur, today.

Pakistan first rattled off the Lankans for a paltry 188 and then chased the target with 61 balls to spare. Though the Sri Lankan bowlers rocked the Pakistani top order and reduced them to 33/3, a solid Misbah-Ul- Haq and a sprightly Umar Akmal saw the team home.

Sri Lanka’s main concern has been the shot selection by their batsmen. It was the main cause of  losing the third CB Series final and their opening match of the Asia Cup against India. Today against Pakistan, the same problem persisted, as they lost wickets in the quest for quick runs after winning the toss in a pressure match. It was an underwhelming performance from a team that bats deep but did not have the application to match their talent.

Pakistan, chasing a modest 188, lost Mohammad Hafeez (11), Nasir Jamshed(18) and Younis Khan(2) cheaply thanks to a nippy Suranga Lakmal. The flurry of wickets gave Sri Lanka a ray of hope of salvaging the game but a 152 stand between Misbah  and Umar Akmal steadied the Pakistanis.

Misbah played an unbeaten hand of 72 off 93 deliveries while Akmal raced to a 72 ball 77.  Both batsmen went about the job in contrasting styles, with Misbah milking the bowling and gathering the singles while Akhmal sticking to his free stroke-playing.

The Sri Lankan bowlers, with Lasith Malinga back in the side, bowled tight lines and were  helped by some lively fielding but they had too little to defend in front of a solid Pakistani batting line up.

Earlier, Sri Lanka won the toss and opted to bat on a batting friendly track . The decision back fired as the batsmen played some forgettable strokes to gift their wickets away. A partnership of 96 from the consistent Kumar Sanggakara and the back in-form Upul Tharanga was the only saving grace in what was an appalling show with the bat.

Youngster Aizaz Cheema nipped out the openers Jayawardene (12) and Dilshan (20) quickly while Chandimal (0) and Thirimanne (7) fell to some sharp catching by the Pakistanis.

The partnership between Sanggakara and Tharanga gave Sri Lanka some semblance of control in the game but the batting powerplay again came to haunt the Lankan Lions, yet again. Saeed Ajmal castled Tharanga (57) gave Pakistan the much needed breakthrough whioe Sanggakara (71) perished while attacking Cheema.

That sealed the fate for Sri Lanka in the game as Ajmal quickly polished off the lower order and hand Pakistan the advantage. Cheema returned with figures of 4/43 while the “wily” Ajmal snapped up 3 for 27.

The win today puts  Pakistan almost  in to the final of the Asia Cup while Sri Lanka, after their second consecutive defeat, may just be staring at an early exit. Sri Lanka’s chances will however receive a boost if Bangladesh manages to beat India in their encounter tomorrow but on all counts that’s a rare possibility.

If India wins against Bangladesh tomorrow, the much touted clash between India and Pakistan on Sunday will be rendered meaningless.

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