Mohammad Amir brilliance and other things we learned from Pakistan's win over Sri Lanka

Jaideep Marar 11:06 13/06/2017
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Mohammad Amir put in a top all-round performance [Getty Images]

Pakistan qualified for the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy after a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Monday.

Here’s what we learned from the match.

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FOUR OVERS OF PACE WAS DECISIVE

Sri Lanka had done well to overcome the loss of two quick wickets in the 15th and 16th overs with the fourth-wicket pair of Niroshan Dickwella and captain Angelo Mathews going strong. Together, they had scored 78 runs and were looking good for many more at the second drinks break.

From 83-3, the Sri Lankans were cruising at 160-3 after 30 overs but that was when Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed brought his best fast bowlers on. Suddenly, both left-arm pacers Junaid Khan and Mohammad Amir, started getting movement off the pitch and they began to look menacing.

Soon, wickets started to tumble as Pakistan hit back in style. It was a brilliant exhibition of fast bowling as Amir, having claimed his first wicket in the tournament, was sending down deliveries at 145 kmph while Junaid was equally devastating hitting the right lengths.

Both pacers picked up two wickets apiece during a four-over period where Sri Lanka added just six runs. Just four overs earlier, they were harbouring hopes of posting 300 runs on the board but Matthews and co. had to settle for much less after this four-wicket blitz by the Pakistan pacers.

BATTING PROBLEMS SOUR PAKISTAN’S WIN

Pakistan openers had done everything right as they began chasing the Sri Lankan target of 237. With Fakhar Zaman smashing a 50 off 36 balls and the first-wicket stand raising 74 in 11.2 overs, all that the rest of the frontline batsmen who followed had to do was just bat sensibly.

The Sri Lankan bowling was not half as menacing as Pakistan’s, yet a series of soft dismissals undermined their chase. Barring Zaman, who got out going for a big hit, the next six were tentative, circumspect and sloppy in their shot selection which led to their exits.

Senior players Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik were expected to shore up the side as they have the big match experience but they only complicated the situation getting out playing loose shots.

Babar Azam too has not been doing justice to the No.3 slot with scores of 10, 31 not out and 8. At Cardiff, he gave a tame catch to mid-wicket.

Captain Sarfraz and Amir’s record eighth-wicket partnership bailed them out but serious doubts about their batting remain.

FIELDING IMPLOSION HALTED SRI LANKA’S RESURGENCE

Sri Lanka will be still be pondering what happened in the last 30 minutes of the match as their fielding completely disintegrated during that period and cost them a semi-final spot.

It was quite surprising because, unlike the Pakistan team, the Sri Lankans are a far better fielding unit and it has been one of their strengths. Yet, when they were within shaking distance from their finest hour in this tournament, it became a weakness.

Until then, they had done exceedingly well to take the game into the 45th over by claiming seven wickets and making Pakistan sweat for every run. Even when they batted, the eighth-wicket pair of Asela Gunaratne and Suranga Lakmal withstood a mini-collapse by gathering 46 runs to give themselves a fighting chance.

Despite the defeat, Sri Lanka can look back at a reasonably satisfying tournament – despite injuries to key players and the suspension of reliable opener and stand-in captain Upul Tharanga for a slow over rate in their first game.

Losing the opener to South Africa by 96 runs dented their hopes but they bounced back in spectacular fashion, taming a strong Indian team, before coming agonisingly close to defeating Pakistan.

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