ABU DHABI // Pakistan captains past and present led their side to a thrilling five-wicket triumph over Sri Lanka in the only Twenty20 International (T20I) at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi in front of a noisy, boisterous packed house.
Misbah-ul-Haq’s typically composed 48 was given greater impetus by the arrival of the man he replaced earlier this year; Shahid Afridi bludgeoned two sixes and 14 runs off the penultimate over from Dilhara Fernando as Pakistan chased down 141 with the balls to spare.
Misbah had added 46 for fourth wicket with Asad Shafiq, a partnership that never really took off but kept Pakistan in the hunt.
Though he had lofted Dilruwan Perera for a six over midwicket in the 12th over, Misbah’s real work began as late as the 17th over when he flicked, drove and then flicked Fernando for three boundaries in a 14-run 17th over.
Afridi fell after the sixes but Lasith Malinga’s final over was spoilt from the first; a scurried double turned into six with four overthrows to fine leg and victory came two balls later.
But it was probably Aizaz Cheema that Pakistan have to thank. Cheema bowled a classic slog-overs spell to keep Sri Lanka down to 141, much less than they could have expected given their start. Cheema took 4-30 derailing the Sri Lankan innings in which Dinesh Chandimal topscored with 56 after Tillakaratne Dilshan won the toss and decided to bat.
Chandimal looked threatening during a 44-ball knock, hitting six boundaries and added a swift 31 for the second wicket with Dilshan before Cheema came into his own. Dilshan miscued a drive off spinner Saeed Ajmal in the sixth over but Sri Lanka were still averaging ten an over after six.
But through Cheema, playing only his second T20I, Pakistan fought back taking the last seven Sri Lanka wickets for 54 runs. Chandimal brought up his maiden half-century in the shortest form of the game off 40 balls before Cheema trapped him in the 19th over.
Two run-outs and two Umar Gul wickets in the last over meant the total, though tricky, was always gettable.
That wicket was one of three in the penultimate over, as he had Thisara Perera caught behind and then knocking over Malinga’s stumps. Two Umar Gul wickets in the last over meant the total, though tricky, was always gettable and two earlier run-outs did not help Sri Lanka’s cause.