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Monday, February 28, 2011

Sri Lanka faced the unexpected as Pakistan won well fought contest



This was one of the match which Sangakkara and his team wants to forget as soon as possible. They trapped badly in their own plan. The ground which witnessed only Lankan victories became witness of Pakistan team's victory for a change. I think moment Sangakkara lost the toss on slow and sluggish pitch it was evident that day was not favourable for Sri Lanka.There was atmosphere at the R Premadasa from the off, music and noise for once. Pakistan's openers came out at Sri Lanka's bowlers and a game was on our hands. Soon there was comedy, in Mohammad Hafeez's run-out, when men lose their wits utterly to the occasion itself. Soon two more wickets fell and one of them was Kamran Akmal's who literally threw his wicket.
There was then intelligence and wisdom in the partnership of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq. For those who lack an appreciation of subtlety, the middle overs are hell. But how beautifully the pair manipulated angles and found space, a dink here, a deflection there, and how hard they ran. With barely any boundaries, the pair put on a 108-run stand at near enough a run a ball and the pace never felt as if it was slacking. In all they ran 65 singles and ten twos, true descendants of Asif Iqbal and Javed Miandad. Simultaneously there was the very physical appreciation of Sri Lankans in the field. Inside the circle they zipped around, like flying fish, hungry. Sri Lanka missed Lasith Malinga badly in this game because he was one player who would have made huge difference in this match from the Lankan prospects.
There was individual genius. In the build-up to this game, Pakistan spoke of Muttiah Muralitharan as if he wasn't Muttiah Muralitharan. He's too old, we play him well enough, he doesn't take wickets against us as he used to. All of this is essentially correct. Pakistan have learnt to play Muralitharan well but he still turned the entire nature of their innings, with his bowling at the death. It was mesmerising stuff, a reminder of his quite immense brain, against a bright young talent, and a batsman set and in real form. Basically it was defence, but beautiful and actually a form of attack.

Two passages of action were outstanding. The first was Shoaib Akhtar, who even at this stage in his career, is capable of recreating the heat every now and again of his early years. As a spectacle, pinging back Mahela Jayawardene's middle stump was difficult to better and it probably turned the game. In the next over, Shahid Afridi's delicious undoing of Thilan Samaraweera effectively sealed matters. Pace at one end and leg-spin at the other: it is not an unusual combination any more but the richness of its choreography and the vast possibilities it contains has always been brought out best by Pakistan. 
Sangakkara once again lived upto his reputation and tried hard to win the game on his own but run-rate was mounting and that forced Sangakkara to play the shot which he would have avoided on most occasion. Later, we saw how men and collectives can fall apart. Pakistan do it often but there's always a strange calmness about how it happens. To the eye, it doesn't feel like anything is breaking down. No one is running about shouting or screaming, there are smiles and expressionless faces and bemused smiles. Yet easy catches are dropped, run-outs missed, misfields, wides and no-balls bowled, poor decisions made and so on. I think Kamran Akmal missed too many catches and everytime he drops the catch he comes under scrutiny after that  famous Sydney test match where he dropped too many catches and faced the charges of match-fixing.  Chamara Silva came close to pulling off the most cunning heist so that there was always punch and counter punch, so that for every wicket that fell late on, a boundary was the response, cricket in perfect balance as it should be. Of course the result sets the rest of the tournament up just right. Co-hosts and favourites beaten by dark horses is a story that sells and sells.
Its good to see Pakistan winning this match and this clearly show that they have forgot all the unfortunate happenings and approached this game with fresh and blank mind. I believe Pakistan can make a mark in this World  Cup and if they reach finals then it will not surprise anybody if they continue to perform like they performed against Lankan giants but they have to improve on their fielding and top-order batting which is becoming bit of worry for them. Important thing from Pakistan's aspect is the bowling of form of their captain Shahid Afridi who is leading the team from the front atleast with the ball. He looked unplayable at times and had two very good games with the ball. I think if he continues to perform like this then this will definitely inspire youngsters in the team to do well.
Sri Lanka have to erase this match from their memories and have to focus on the coming games and try to win all of them to sail smoothly into the quarters and I believe one loss does not make the worst team.

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