Sri Lanka snatch thriller as Pakistan falter by Ibrahim Moiz 19th June 2012 Sri Lanka stole a last-over thriller at Colombo as Pakistan faltered late in the innings against a stupendous innings from Angelo Mathews, who roused the home side’s lower order with a fantastic unbeaten 80 to clinch a tense chase of 248. Despite boisterous half-centuries from Imran Farhat and Umar Akmal, Pakistan wilted late in the piece as first young Dinesh Chandimal patched up a shaky start before Mathews’ thrilling finish stole the show. Pakistan dominated significant portions of the match but came up short at key moments. Their fielders were ragged to the point of incompetence throughout, their innings lost steam in the closing overs and they surrendered the advantage gleaned through two double-strikes, first from Sohail Tanveer (3 for 42) and then Shahid Afridi (2 for 48). Sri Lanka—who batted right to the tail—were eventually indebted, though, to Mathews’ magnificent finish, as he manoeuvred the lower order brilliantly before exploding at the finish; 15 were needed off the final over and he clinched the game with two balls to spare. Tanveer’s nifty swing, abetted by cunning changes of angle, accounted for Sri Lanka’s openers; first he outfoxed Tillekeratne Dilshan from round the stumps before a wily slower leg-cutter uprooted Upul Tharanga’s off-stump (19 for 2). It meant that Sri Lanka’s recovery was a laboured one, as Kumar Sangakkara (40) shared 78 with Chandimal, the pair quietly rebuilding the chase despite not looking in the best nick. Both Tanveer and Umar Gul moved the new ball, while Mohammad Hafeez was typically frugal at first change. Mohammad Sami’s arrival provided the release, though his first spell was not a bad one, with a mortified Sarfraz Ahmed dropping a sitter off Sangakkara in between a pair of neat Chandimal cuts. But the keeper soon made up for his mistake when he quickly snaffled an under-edge off Sangakkara to catch the advancing batsman short. And Afridi soaked in the momentum with a wicket next ball, as Mahela Jayawardene lobbed a simple return catch to put Pakistan on top (97 for 4). Against a mounting required rate, Chandimal and Mathews began another recovery rather gingerly. Chandimal, in an efficient 72-ball half-century (four fours), had built enough confidence to flat-bat Afridi wide of long-off, when he took on Hafeez and was taken by a leaping Sami at long-off. Farhat then featured in Pakistan’s second rare excellent move in the field when he put in a rare accurate throw to remove Thisara Perera for a duck (138 for 6). By now, though, Mathews (four fours and two sixes) had settled, and the length of Sri Lanka’s lineup meant he had support to the end. He added 37 apiece with specialist batsman Lahiru Thirimanne and allrounder Jeevan Mendis, and hammered home the finishing blows in a 20-ball stand of 36 with Nuwan Kulasekara. The warning signs began to flash when he reverse-swept a one-bouncer to the rope, before dropping on a knee to flick a genuinely quick Sami ball over fine leg for six. Sami’s flat throw to run out Thirimanne was Pakistan’s last moment of excellence in the field, and they subsequently sagged against a spicy counterattack from Mathews and Mendis. The left-hander Mendis picked up a brace of superbly timed heaves over the on-side, with Gul, whose first eight overs had yielded just 21, going for 22 in his last two. Though he subsequently picked out cover, Mathews finished the job in some style. With 15 needed off an over, Pakistan blinked first; Sami betrayed the nerves with a wide to start before two blunders in the outfield, allowing Mathews to scamper back on strike for two apiece, sandwiched a terrific coup de grace, as the allrounder launched a soaring blow into the stand over Sami’s head. He finished it off with a swat to the point rope, and left Pakistan shell-shocked with a third consecutive defeat to surrender the series. The visitors had started on a far brighter note; despite another cheap dismissal for a woefully out-of-form Hafeez, playing up the wrong line to Kulasekara, Farhat took the attack to Sri Lanka’s bowlers with a bellicose barrage of boundaries. Despite taking 13 balls to open his account, the robust left-hander peppered both boundaries square of the wicket. He was particularly savage against Kulasekara, with six fours in three overs—including a maiden to pause for breath. For the first time in the series Kulasekara lost his new-ball rhythm; first he responded to Farhat’s favourite square drives with a straighter line that was duly flicked fine, before responding to a heave over long-on with a bouncer that the left-hander gleefully swatted for another four. Eight boundaries came between a lost-missing single, as Farhat rollicked to a 56-ball half-century (nine fours) to add 60 with second fiddle Azhar Ali. It was, unsurprisingly, Perera who struck the breakthrough, as Farhat’s slog picked out midwicket (82 for 2), but the innings kept bubbling along at a slightly more demure pace. A typically consistent Azhar (30) was just easing into his stride when he was lured into leg-spinner Mendis’ flight, snared by a swooping Thirimanne. Asad Shafiq (38) managed a couple of clean pulls and lovely on-drives on the walk before he fell to the same Thirimanne, hesitating slightly at Misbah-ul-Haq’s call to be caught short (146 for 4). Umar Akmal (five fours and two sixes) broke the deadlock in the Powerplay, when he swiftly deflected Lasith Malinga’s short-pitched attack off the body to the fine leg boundaries, and then lined up a pair of enormous sixes over square leg off Perera. Misbah, with 32 off 48 balls, was the second fiddle in a run-a-ball stand of 61 that ended when he swept Mendis—the pick of Sri Lanka’s bowlers, with teasing flight to spice a disciplined line and length—to midwicket. Only at the end did Pakistan falter, largely thanks to Sri Lanka’s shrewd bowlers; having figured out Umar’s eagerness to flick to leg or slog over midwicket, Kulasekara and Malinga kept firmly outside off-stump, as Umar—who had 46 off 42 balls before managing just 9 off the next 19—lost steam while the lower-order perished going for the ropes. Only 27 runs came off the innings’ last six overs, keeping Pakistan below what had seemed a regulation 250 half an hour earlier. If it was a psychological blow—and it was, to an extent—it revealed again Pakistan’s underbelly and proved vital in the eventual outcome.