Pakistan bowed out of the Asia Cup with a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Dhaka.
Both teams badly needed a morale boost for the start of the ICC World Twenty20 in this dead-rubber last match of moderate Cup campaigns, in which they previously had just a solitary success each over associate team UAE to show for their efforts.
It was Sri Lanka, reigning world Twenty20 champions, who were to be disappointed.
Back-to-form Tillakaratne Dilshan (75no) and Dinesh Chandimal (58) had them on course for a bigger total, after being put in under lights.
The opening pair put on 110 together, and hit 17 fours and two sixes between them, but Mohammad Irfan returned to take two wickets in four balls in his final over as Pakistan restricted Sri Lanka to 150 for four.
Pakistan’s chase then always appeared on track, Umar Akmal top-scoring with 48 off 37 balls as Shahid Afridi’s men completed victory with four deliveries to spare.
World Twenty20 hosts India will face Bangladesh in the tournament final on Sunday.
Miserly Mohammad Amir was again a driving force for Pakistan as they beat United Arab Emirates by seven wickets to stay in with a chance of winning the Asia Cup.
Amir, impressive already on the comeback trail following his worldwide five-year ban for spot-fixing, continued his brilliant form by taking two for six in four overs as UAE posted 129 for six in Dhaka.
Pakistan knocked off the runs, with eight balls to spare, thanks to a much-needed and unbroken fourth-wicket stand of 114 between Shoaib Malik (63no) and Umar Akmal (50no) – after all-rounder Amjad Javed (three for 36) had put the chase in early trouble.
The Pakistani pair clubbed 23 off Javed, when he returned for his final over, to seal their team’s first victory in the tournament after an opening defeat against table-toppers India.
Amir’s figures are no match for those of his former team-mate Umar Gul, who has twice taken five for six in Twenty20s – but they are the joint-second most economical on record from a full four overs.
Afridi, who turns 36 next week, had retired from one-day cricket last year to add to his departure from the Test arena in 2010. He was due to retire from all international cricket after the World Twenty20 in India finishes in April.
But Afridi said he may continue playing Twenty20 cricket for his country.
“I had announced that I will leave all cricket after the World Twenty20 in India but my elder family members and some friends are putting pressure on me to continue playing Twenty20 cricket, so I am thinking on that,” Afridi told AFP before leaving for Bangladesh.
Afridi will also lead Pakistan in the five-nation Asia Cup which starts in Dhaka from Wednesday. Pakistan play India in their first match on Saturday.
Afridi said he takes all his decisions with mutual consultation.
“I have a family who told me that I retired from one-day on my own so I have to consider their advice on the Twenty20 retirement, but I have to look at all the factors before taking a final call,” said Afridi.
Afridi is the highest wicket-taker in the shortest format of the game with 91 in 90 matches but his recent form has not been good.
“I have to look at the results of the team in the Asia Cup and then at World Twenty20 and that will help me take a final decision. We have not been doing well because we do not have quality youngsters coming up.
“So if I feel that the team needs me then I will continue but if I feel otherwise that I am taking place of a better player then I will leave.”