x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Sangakkara is Dilshan's fall guy

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lankan captain, ran his team out of a rally on Friday in a display of running reminiscent of former Pakistan great Inzamam-ul-Haq.

Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, right, is run out on 45 against Pakistan in Dubai last night.
Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara, right, is run out on 45 against Pakistan in Dubai last night.

DUBAI // When Inzamam-ul-Haq retired from playing in 2007, the Pakistan dressing room lost a guiding light and its most reliable run-gatherer. With his departure, running between the wickets was deprived of one of its greatest comics.

The great Pakistani batsman may be four years into international retirement, but his spirit was revived at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium last night.

Ironically, the main culprit for the shambolic running display was Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lankan captain, who is usually electric between the wickets.

In one go, Dilshan nearly ran both himself and Kumar Sangakkara out, before he somehow ended up with four runs thanks to overthrows - all off the same delivery.

Not long after, he did succeed in seeing off Sangakkara, just as Sri Lanka looked to be cruising to victory. When he then nearly did the same to Dinesh Chandimal, with another "yes ... no ... sorry" jaunt around mid-pitch, it seemed as though he had lost the plot.

As was often the case with Inzamam, no matter how fine the captain's personal performance was, a crucial run out proved to be the undoing of his side.

Dilshan's 64 set them on the right course, but once he went, and Pakistan's spin bowlers tightened the screws, Sri Lanka's chase unravelled. The demise was terminal as soon as Mahela Jayawardene, shortly after becoming the ninth player to pass 10,000 one-day international runs, was stumped off the bowling of Saeed Ajmal.

The decision was so tight it needed forensic examination by Richard Illingworth, the former Abu Dhabi schoolteacher, who was in the TV umpire's chair. On such a fine margin, the match swung.

In this series, Sri Lanka have been calling for their young players to prove they a worthy of walking in the path of those greats who so recently went before them.

Chandimal and Angelo Mathews had the chance to do so when they were brought together as the last recognised batsmen, with 90 to get from 15 overs.

They faltered, though, as Ajmal and Shahid Afridi, feeding off the vocal Pakistani support in an impressive Sports City crowd, set up the win for Pakistan with four quick wickets.

It did not dull the party atmosphere in the stands last night, and the players have appeared blissfully unaffected all tour anyway, but the lingering odour of the spot-fixing trial in the UK refuses to budge.

Salman Butt's downfall has done nobody any good, except, perhaps, Imran Farhat.

Those depressing circumstances meant Farhat has been handed another shot at an opening berth he has failed to nail down despite a decade of trying.

He has made the most of his reprieve. Yesterday he posted his third half-century in his past five one-day innings for Pakistan.

It was a brave effort. In the seventh over, after he had made a breezy, run-a-ball 18 to start his innings, Farhat was struck on the helmet by a perfectly directed bouncer from Dilhara Fernando.

It was a nasty blow, and he needed lengthy treatment, but it failed to knock him out of his stride.

He should be disappointed that he did not help himself to a second career ODI ton, but his 72 was another marker of his growing standing within this team.

While Farhat has been quietly establishing himself, Mohammed Hafeez has just been quiet on this tour of the UAE.

But he was back with a bang here, though, posting a fine 83 which was a reminder that one of Pakistan's classiest operators off the field can play a bit on it, too.

Pakistan should really have posted a bigger score after Farhat and Hafeez's first-wicket alliance of 151. However, with the spirit of Inzamam on their side, the proved to have just enough.