|Scorecard:||Sri Lanka v Pakistan|
|Player:||Umar Akmal, Younis Khan, KC Sangakkara, Iftikhar Anjum, Kamran Akmal|
|Event:||Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2009|
DateLine: 7th August 2009
The pressure to win the series wasn't there. But still to score a maiden ODI century coming in at 130/4 and being just a couple of games old takes some doing. When Omar Akmal went into bat, Pakistan were again seeing down the barrel and were on the verge of another batting collapse. For company, the youngster had a struggling captain and Shahid Afridi to come but he took the opportunity and proved that the younger Akmal is one of the best things to have happened to Pakistan batting for a long time.
Courtesy his 72-ball 102 and then a good spell of medium pace bowling by Rao Iftikhar Anjum followed by quality spin bowling by Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal made sure Pakistan at last tasted victory on the Lankan soil.
Chasing 322 to win and go 4-0 up in the series, Sri Lanka started in electric fashion even though they lost last match centurian Mahela Jayawardene for just 19. Skipper Kumar Sangakkara then took centerstage and delighted the capacity crowd with outstanding display of shot-making for a brief while. The skipper scored 39 off 33 balls and the knock was studded with six hits to the fence. He fell straight after the drinks break trying to reach out for a drive off a slower delivery from Iftikhar Anjum. Imran Nazir gleefully accepted the catch at point.
Then the game slowed down as Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal spun the ball excruciatingly and both Upul Tharanga and Thilina Kandamby found no way out of it. Tharanga had by now crossed his half century, but still he found the going tough against the spinning ball. Kandamby then got out to a clever piece of bowling from Ajmal. He bowled one quicker and held the length back. Kandamby was forced to stay on the backfoot and he could only hand over a thick outside edge which Younis Khan scalped diving to his left.
The game was now slipping out of Lankan hands as the required run-rate was surging high and had reached eight runs per over by the time they had played 29 overs. To add to the woes, Kapugedara, someone who had the ability to take care of the run-rate when required got out to a stunner of a catch from Rana-Naved-Ul-Hasan. The right-hander chipped down the track trying to take Ajmal downtown over long-off . The ball did not go the distance as Naved took a one handed catch after kind of misjudging the skier.
Thilan Samaraweera immediately followed suit falling to a Rao delivery that pitched on a good length outside off and moved away a little bit. Samaraweera tried to run it down to third man but could only succeed to get a thick edge to Kamran Akmal. Till now, Tharanga (80) was batting undeterred by what was happening on the other end, but rising run-rate and falling wickets from the other end took their toll on the left-hander who after a well driven boundary off Iftikhar, tried for another drive only to nick it for Akmal to grab it safely.
Wickets then kept falling as Sri Lanka's last hopes of another win in the series were quashed with the wicket of Tharanga. The islanders finally were all out for 175, handing Pakistan victory by 146 runs. Iftikhar Anjum took five wickets and was the major wrecker for the Pakistan attack.
Earlier batting first, Pakistan batting for the first time looked like a shadow of what they were expected to be out here in Sri Lanka. The openers added 61 runs and in the process, for the first time in the series thwarted the new ball. Kamran Akmal was brilliant on a surface that looked stunning for batting.
Nazir to start off was a little rusty, having been out of action for nearly two seasons. The right-hander was reprieved by the umpires on 7 and 19 before missing a high full toss and getting cleaned up. The opening bowlers again were doing a good job and that was visible from the fact that even though the pitch was a stunner, there were just two well-timed boundaries in the first six overs and most of the runs came through inside-edges and miscues.
Kamran though soon realised that this was a track where staying back would do the job and then he started to punch the ball off the back foot which resulted in a few off-side boundaries that got him in the groove.
Then while trying to sweep Malinga Bandara without covering the stumps, Kamran was bowled around the legs for 57. Thereafter Pakistan demanded a cautious approach, but as has now been a habit for the middle order, both Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-Ul-Haq fell within an addition of 24 runs leaving the side on the brink of yet another batting collapse at 130/4.
This time though skipper Younis Khan was adamant to not allow something like a batting collapse to happen, and he alongside 19-year-old Omar Akmal made sure Pakistan bowlers have a tall order to defend. Omar in the process hit a century and kind of smashed Younis Khan's statements made a couple of days back when the skipper had lambasted the Pakistan domestic structure. He proved that not all is wrong with the domestic set-up with a timely 72-ball 102.
The right-hander came down harshly on the Lankan bowlers from the outset and his exuberance helped his skipper achieve his first half-century as Pakistan captain. Batting against spinners in that part of the globe is never easy and Lankan spinners had already completed half the job by striking thrice in succession to leave Pakistan with an out-of-form captain and a new lad to set up a strong total. The pair though combined excellently giving viewers the delight to watch a youngster batting to dominate a bowling attack which till date had terrorised Pakistan batting in the series so far. The duo added 176 to put Sri Lanka under pressure for the first time in the series.
Omar, looked comfortable from the very outset and showed he wasn't going to get bogged down, swinging his seventh delivery from Mendis, over long-on for a six. He kept finding the narrowest of gaps, converted ones into twos to add to the frustrating Sri Lankan bowlers and fielders.
His shots were a mixture of ferocious cuts to delicate dabs, from magnificent hooks to exceptional footwork enabled sixes. Younis Khan on the other hand was happy to play the second fiddle and his innings contained crisp drives and wristy flicks through which he stole runs and more importantly allowed Omar to take most of the strike.
The youngster brought up his half-century from 46 balls, and then further upped his strike-rate. He looked particularily dangerous whenever the ball was pitched in his half on the leg-side because he smothered those with ease and elegance. He took consecutive fours off Ajantha Mendis and then clubbed Lasith Malinga for 13 in the 46th over. Malinga was again taken for an effortless six in the 48th over, the back leg once more cleared to gain elevation.
Although Younis fell for 89 in the 49th over, Umar got to the magical three figures in a dramatic manner. He clipped the ball to deep square leg, ran two, then got two more as Sangakkara's throw was not backed up. The celebrations then began and it carried on for some time, justifiably so since this was a special knock. The entire team applauded the brilliant effort as the youngster kissed the pitch which gave him his maiden century.