x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Chandimal drags Sri Lanka over the line in final ODI

Unbeaten 64 helps secure last-gasp win in lively dead rubber

Sri Lankan players celebrate the dismissal of Pakistani batsman Misbah ul Haq during the fifth one-day international match yesterday in Abu Dhabi. Marwan Naamani / AFP
Sri Lankan players celebrate the dismissal of Pakistani batsman Misbah ul Haq during the fifth one-day international match yesterday in Abu Dhabi. Marwan Naamani / AFP

Abu Dhabi // Dinesh Chandimal pulled off a breathtaking heist in Abu Dhabi on Friday night, an unbeaten 64 from Sri Lanka’s Twenty20 captain sealing a futile but exciting consolation win.

His innings pulled Sri Lanka out of jail and led them to a two-wicket win with just two balls to spare.

Chandimal snuck up on Pakistan almost unnoticed. Having arrived in the 25th over, he only reached his fifty in the 47th, with what was until then his first boundary.

At that stage, Sri Lanka were out of the match, eight down and with 28 runs still to get.

But in the next over, Ajantha Mendis, who had already been reprieved by the decision review system (DRS) on his first ball, was dropped by Sohaib Maqsood at cover and it was a vital let-off.

He reverse swept the last ball of the over, off Saeed Ajmal, for a boundary and a faltering chase suddenly had new life.

The penultimate over was the one that ended up tilting the match decisively.

Umar Gul had been rushed into the squad midway through the series because Pakistan were struggling with their bowling at the death.

It was ironic, then, that with 18 still needed off 12 balls, he was first lofted for six over midwicket by Chandimal and then audaciously by Mendis, over extra cover.

Mendis sealed the win in a nervy last over with a slap over the extra cover boundary, finishing unbeaten on 19 in an unlikely 40-run stand.

The plaudits will be Chandimal’s, though.

When he arrived after Tillakaratne Dilshan had perished for a sedate 45, Sri Lanka were still on course for a comfortable win.

That had been powered by an audacious start from Kusal Perera, greeted at one stage on the electronic scoreboard as the new Sanath Jayasuriya.

But Sri Lanka lost their way around Chandimal.

Junaid Khan had taken Dilshan’s wicket, and when he bowled Kumar Sangakkara around his legs, it sparked a collapse that looked to have finished the game.

Wickets fell regularly while Chandimal assiduously worked his singles.

It was only when Mendis arrived at the strike that their true worth became apparent.

It was ultimately a deserved result and gave the series scoreline the closeness it warranted.

Sri Lanka have been second best, but that is mostly because they lost their way at critical moments throughout.

They were good in the field last night as well, managing finally to restrict Pakistan to a modest total.

Partly this was Pakistan’s own doing, with a visible sense of complacency appearing to sneak into their batsmen.

Mohammad Hafeez and Misbah-ul-Haq were the major contributors, though like the others, they ultimately failed to build on their starts.

Sri Lanka bowled smartly and fielded sharply, exemplified by Dilshan’s outstanding catch to dismiss Maqsood.

Lasith Malinga was expensive, as he generally is against Pakistan, but four wickets was some compensation. Only an impressive 41 from Anwar Ali at the end dragged Pakistan to a total they could think of defending, but in the end, even that was not enough.