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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 June 2018

Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan seal T20 series for Pakistan against Sri Lanka

Pakistan won by two wickets, off the penultimate ball, to clinch the T20 series

Pakistan's captain Sarfraz Ahmed (3rdL) celebrating with Faheem Ashraf during the second T20 cricket match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Nezar Balout/ AFP Photo
Pakistan's captain Sarfraz Ahmed (3rdL) celebrating with Faheem Ashraf during the second T20 cricket match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Nezar Balout/ AFP Photo

Faheem Ashraf became the first Pakistani to take a Twenty20 international hat-trick as they extended their domination over Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi.

Pakistan won by two wickets, off the penultimate ball, to clinch the T20 series before the two sets of players have even boarded the plane for Sunday’s final match in Lahore.

Pakistan’s players should expect a happy homecoming. Their young limited-overs side have been irresistible of late. This was the seventh successive victory since they swapped whites for coloured clothing in the UAE.

For the second time in two nights, the victory was received by a large and voluble crowd at the Zayed Cricket Stadium.

When Shadab Khan muscled them across the winning line in a fraught finish, with another display that belied the fact he is still just 19, the crowd erupted in delight.

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At least Sri Lanka’s top order batting put up a fight this time. Albeit briefly. Danushka Gunathilaka scored 51 and shared in notable stands with Dilshan Munaweera and Sadeera Samarawickrama.

When the partnership for the second wicket with Samarawickrama was ended, though, after they had put on 64, it prompted the sort of farcical collapse that would have been scarcely believable, had Sri Lanka basically not got the patent for it over the past two weeks.

Samarawickrama was the first of eight wickets to fall for 13 runs.

Ashraf, the least heralded of Pakistan’s bowling attack, had his moment in the spotlight when Isuru Udana, Mahela Udawatte and Dasun Shanaka all succumbed to his medium pace in the space of three balls.

His was not the only treble on scorecard. To sum up Sri Lanka’s malaise, three of their batsmen fell to run outs.

Having posted what seemed a meagre total of 124 for nine, their supporters would have had few hopes when they turned around at halfway.

But, luckily for Sri Lanka, Pakistan do a decent line in run-out slapstick themselves. Fakhar Zaman perished in a mix up with Ahmed Shahzad.

Pakistan's Hassan Ali (L) during the second Twenty20 series cricket match Pakistan vs Sri Lanka at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Nezar Balout/ AFP Photo
Pakistan's Hassan Ali (L) during the second Twenty20 series cricket match Pakistan vs Sri Lanka at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi. Nezar Balout/ AFP Photo

The opening duo had given the hosts a solid platform, but the wicket breathed fresh hope into the hitherto forlorn Sri Lankans.

Shahzad, Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik all came and went without significantly forwarding Pakistan’s cause, with captain Perera picking up three wickets for Sri Lanka.

Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain, did his best to stem the nonsense, making 28. But all around him, his batting partners were losing their heads.

When he became the fifth player in the match to fall to a run out, it appeared the home side’s chances of a series-clinching win went with.

Sri Lanka’s fielding was every bit as outstanding as their batting had been bad, but they were powerless to stop Shadab at the death.

With three balls to go, and eight required, the young legspinner hit a straight drive that crashed into the sightscreen behind the bowler.

He and Hasan Ali scampered the two they required off the following ball to seal the match and the series.