CT 2017: Sri Lanka's ordinary fielding guides Pakistan to semifinals
Cardiff: Weary Sri Lankan fielders spoiled all the hard work of bowlers, especially Lasith Malinga, to handover a three-wicket win to Pakistan in Group B encounter of ICC Champions Trophy 2017 at the Sophia Gardens ground here on Monday.
With this victory, Pakistan has forayed into the semifinal stage of the tournament and will now meet England at the same ground on June 14.
Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed perfectly played the role of a guide with his unbeaten 61-run inning that came off 79 balls and was decorated with 5 boundaries. He got great support from Mohammad Amir, who despite being a frontline bowler, partnered the crease with his captain in a match-winning record 75-run unbeaten partnership for the eighth wicket.
Amir (28* off 43, 1 four) came to the crease when Sri Lanka was on charge with Pak's seven batsmen back in the pavilion when there were only 162 runs on the board and required another 74 runs to win.
The match was dropped by Thisara Perera in the 39th over of the second inning bowled by Lasith Malinga when he dropped a straight forward catch of Sarfaraz Ahmed. The Lankan fielders reincarted the same mistake in the 41st over when substitute fielder Seekkuge Prasanna again dropped Sarfaraz, again in Malinga's over.
Sarfaraz was also awarded man of the match for his gritty inning that was blessed with two lifelines given by the Lankan fielders.
Apart from these two catches, Lankan fielders were extremely shaky on the field as they not only let the Pakistani batsmen convert many singles into doubles but also failed to stop a number of boundaries that must had been stopped. The fielding is the main reason why Pakistan emerged from an extreme pressure situation.
Pakistan got a good start as openers Azhar Ali (34 off 50) and Fakhar Zaman (50 off 36) added 74 runs for the first wicket in just 11.2 overs. Once both the openers returned to the pavilion at 92 runs in 15.4 overs, the wickets started leaking and soon Pakistan found itself reeling under immense pressure at 162/7.
Nuwan Pradeep was the pick of the bowlers for Sri Lanka as he bagged 3 wickets for 60 runs in his 10 overs, while Lasith Malinga (1/52), Suranga Lakmal (1/48) and Thisara Perera (1/43) plucked one wicket each.
Earlier, Pakistan put Sri Lanka to bat first and soon put them under pressure by sending opener Danushka Gunathilaka (13 off 20) back to pavilion. Niroshan Dickwella, however, played the mentor for his side with his 73 run inning. He took 86 balls and laced his knock with 4 fours.
Kusal Mendis scored 27 runs off 29 balls, while captain Angelo Mathews played a 39-run inning off 54 deliveries. Asela Gunaratne also added 27 runs off 44 deliveries, while Suranga Lakmal played a major role in lifting his team’s total to 236 runs in 49.2 overs with his 26-run knock.
Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali had plucked three wickets each while Mohammad Amir and Fahim Ashraf took two wickets each.
This, however, turned out to be the most tense match of the ongoing ICC Champions Trophy 2017 so far. Now Pakistan will see England in the first semifinal of the tournament at the same ground. It must be mentioned that England hasn’t lost any of its matches so far.
In the other semifinal, India will lock horns with Bangladesh at Birmingham on June 15.