The Lankan Raj

Jun 22, 2012 by     1 Comment     Posted under: Sports Buzz

Rainy days, washed-out matches, Malinga’s bouncer barrage and Pakistan’s erratic displays summed up the five-match ODI series between two sub-continental giants. After a thrilling T-20 series before this, the hosts looked forward on presenting a better display after a two-month long IPL stint.

It all started off with an impressive display from the Pakistani outfit at Pallekele, where they restricted the hosts to a mere 135 runs for the loss of 8 wickets in a rain-affected match. It was a good toss to lose for Pakistan as Umar Gul dented the Sri-Lankan line-up with three quick wickets. Sami’s fiery spell and Ajmal’s mind-boggling ‘doosras’ were just adequate to keep the Sri-Lankans to a below par score. Mohammad Hafeez and Umar Akmal secured a win with their patient knocks of 37 and 36*, respectively.

Even though after the first ODI Pakistan’s fortunes took a nose-dive; it was Azhar Ali’s rise as a long-term ODI prospect that became the center of attention. Azhar Ali, best known as a classic Test batsman, showed his potential in the ODI format with knocks of 96, 7, 81 and 30 in the next 4 matches, skyrocketing his average to a stunning 43.75. Applause and appreciation from Pakistani greats should have made Misbah-ul-Haq a satisfied captain after he repeatedly asked Azhar’s inclusion in the limited-overs squad. Azhar’s technique and flair are unquestionable and his ability to see off the new, seaming ball saves the day for the vulnerable Pakistani middle-order.

The second ODI proved to be a dream-run for TM Dilshan as he found his long-lost ODI form. Tillakaratne Dilshan’s knock of 119 was his second-highest score against Pakistan after the 137 in Lahore in 2009 – the highest being 144 against Zimbabwe at the same venue. But it wasn’t just Dilshan’s heroics that dented the visitors’ chance, but Perera’s brilliant fielding and career best figures of 6 for 44 sealed the win for the Lankans. Perera’s consistent run in the series not only cemented his place in the limited-overs format, but his inclusion in the Test outfit now looks a matter of time.

It was the rain gods who won the Third ODI with it being abandoned, where heavy rain took over when Pakistan was 12 for 2. Then came the 4th ODI at Colombo.Pakistan has been an abysmal chaser in recent years in ODI cricket. Three hours of accumulation offered hope that tonight wouldn’t end in another failed pursuit. With 166 for 2 it looked as if they were just home, but that was precisely not the case. Thisara Perera followed up his 6 for 44 in the second ODI with a hat-trick. Pakistan registered six ducks, and their 15th defeat in 18 chases of 240-plus in the last three years, with the whole team being bowled out for just 199.

However, there were some bright points for the men in green as Azhar Ali became only the ninth player overall and the second Pakistan batsman after Saeed Anwar to carry his bat through a completed innings in the 4th ODI. A change of fortunes was expected in the 5th ODI. The satisfaction being the batsmen chipping in this time around after a dispiriting collapse in the 4th ODI. However, a poor display from their bowling unit and shoddy fielding cost them once again.

Outfielders failed to prevent twos that should have been ones, and those inside the circle failed to run the batsmen out at least three times, missing their targets as the chase approached a thrilling end. Amid all this, Angelo Mathews was a figure of calmness, and not for the first time he rescued Sri Lanka from trouble and fashioned a thrilling victory with the tail. Sri Lanka won the five match series 3-1 with one being washed out. Pakistan just might have to consider changes in their think-tank. The brief-but costly spells of wayward bowling were a source of frustration, but the emotion that will linger will be the regret of an insipid fielding display that undermined each forward step. Julian Fountain’s appointment, unfortunately, hasn’t plugged their weak spots but he’ll he looking forward to a spirited display in the test-series.

The ODI series saw the emergence of Azhar Ali, the success of Sri Lanka’s flexible batting order and the fragility of Pakistan’s fielding. It was a roller-coaster ride of action and emotion with the hosts chipping away with the trophy.

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  • Congrats Arun on this wonderful achievement. Looking forward to reading more of you in the future.Add me to the mailing list.

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