Misbah, Akmal lead Pakistan to fine victory
SKIPPER Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal cracked half-centuries under pressure as Pakistan virtually booked a place in the Asia Cup final with an emphatic six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka on Thursday.
Pakistan was struggling at 33-3 before Misbah (72 not out) and Akmal (77) added 152 for the fourth wicket to help their team reach the modest 189-target with more than 10 overs to spare in the day-night match in Dhaka.
Fast bowler Aizaz Cheema (4-43) and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal (3-27) also played important roles in Pakistan’s second successive victory by restricting Sri Lanka to a small total.
“It was a really good partnership between me and Akmal,” said Misbah.
“It was important for me to get my confidence back. We have to be more consistent with the bat as the bowling is always keeping us in the hunt.” Sri Lanka, who lost to India in their opening match, were in desperate need of a win as they chase a spot in the final but were let down by their batsmen.
Only Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Upul Tharanga (57) made any impression with the bat against the Pakistani attack.
Pakistan lost three wickets in the opening 13 overs of their reply, with paceman Suranga Lakmal taking two and leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna one, before Misbah and Akmal took charge.
The Pakistani captain hit one six and nine fours in his 93-ball knock while Akmal, who was dropped on 46, struck two sixes and seven boundaries from 72 balls.
Sri Lanka, electing to bat, were earlier well-placed at 161-4 following a 96-run fifthwicket stand between former skipper Sangakkara and Tharanga but they lost their last six wickets for just 27 runs.
“Batting first, we felt 250- 260 would have been a good score,” said Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene.
“We had a good start but lost too many wickets and exposed our lower middle order. They bowled really well and had a much better game than us today.” Ajmal started the slide when he bowled Tharanga.
He also removed Farveez Maharoof and last-man Lakmal.
Cheema, who conceded 21 runs in his first two overs, came back strongly to dismiss openers Jayawardene (12) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (20) in quick succession before removing Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga.
The Pakistani bowlers were well backed up by their fielders, with Younis Khan taking a superb catch to his left in the slips to account for Dinesh Chandimal off Umar Gul.
Sri Lanka raced to 33 in the opening five overs but were reduced to 65-4, with Cheema taking two wickets and Gul and Hammad Azam one apiece.
Pakistan defeated Bangladesh by 21 runs and India beat Sri Lanka by 50 runs in their opening matches.
Each side plays the others once in the round-robin league, with the top two advancing to the final on March 22.