Pakistan overcame a new look Sri Lanka comfortable in the end after a brief stutter to take a 1-0 lead in three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka at Abu Dhabi.
With the islanders having named a much changed lineup for the T20 series, the new look side were put to the sword by Pakistan’s bowlers as they were bundled out for 102 runs.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s men chased down the modest total with seven wickets to spare in the end to take the early initiative in the series.
We look at the key talking points of a match dominated by Pakistan’s bowlers.
Sri Lanka cricket had chosen a revamped squad led by all-rounder Thisara Perera for the T20I series following the hesitation of several senior players in touring Lahore for the final match.
The inexperience in the side showed after only two batsmen managed to cross the 20-run mark for the islanders after they were put into bat. Danushka Gunathilaka started with a bang but departed soon after and only Sadeera Samarawickrama and Seekkuge Prasanna showed any application with the bat.
With the squad of a mix of fringe players and relative newcomers, Sri Lanka found the going tough against a Pakistan unit which has looked extremely good in the limited-overs format.
With Hasan Ali in the form of his life and the likes of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Usman Khan chipping in, the Pakistan bowling attack has been on a hot run of late as they continue their domination over opposition batsmen.
On Thursday, the complete bowling attack was on point once again with wickets being shared among all the bowlers.
After Imad Wasim struck with the new ball as is custom, the Pakistan spinners seized the initiative as Shadab Khan and Mohammad Hafeez created havoc on the pitch. Hafeez showed why is ranked as the number one all-rounder in this format to pick up two wickets in quick sucession while Shadad had to settle for one.
Hasan Ali returned to clean up the tail as Usman Khan and Faheem Ashraf too found themselves among the wickets.
With just a modest target of 103 to get, Pakistan sure did make a meal of the chase after Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam departed early.
Zaman yorked himself after advancing down the track to a Vikum Sanjaya delivery where as Azam was deceived by some exceptional turn and flight by spinner Sachith Pathirana to be stumped by a mile. Ahmed Shehzad struggled to get going in a laboured 22-run knock before being dismissed by Sanajaya.
In the end, the job to see Pakistan through fell to the experienced heads of Shoaib Malik and Hafeez and the duo did not disappoint with excellent knocks.
Malik looked really good in his 31-ball unbeaten 42 as he imposed himself on Sri Lanka’s inexperienced bowling attack, especially the spinners.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has said that he was afraid to watch himself on the television after reporting a suspicious spot-fixing approach from a bookie during the recently concluded five-match ODI series against Sri Lanka.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Sarfraz said he was relieved that the episode was over but still felt a certain nervousness watching himself play on television despite reporting the approach as soon as possible.
“Whatever happened, it is done and I did what I was supposed to do. But I wasn’t frightened after informing; in fact, I was more scared watching myself on TV. I was discussed on TV so much that at some stage I started to feel fear. But by the grace of Allah, everything is getting normal. When you are going into a series you need to be normal and everything is going good so far,” the skipper said.
Sarfraz had duly reported the matter to the ICC’s Anti-Corruption Unit officials during the series which Pakistan swept 5-0.
Pakistan’s South African coach Mickey Arthur had commended his skipper for his integrity and stated that Sarfraz was a role model for other players in the team.
“To be honest the player reacted unbelievably well, he did everything required of him and we had a chat straight afterwards. It was handled brilliantly and I think that is a real example to our team and to the cricket world that a really important player was approached and acted to the letter of the law and did exceptionally well as a true ambassador of the game.
“I am very comfortable with our players, they are outstanding and I have no doubt that if anyone is approached they will do the same way as the individual did,” Arthur added.
Australia skipper Steve Smith has shed light on the infamous DRS row during his side’s tour of India for a four-match Test series earlier this year.
Opposing counterpart Virat Kohli had fuelled suggestions that the Aussies had indulged in systemic abuse of the DRS with on-field batsmen seeking help from the dressing room before making a decision on whether to review a particular call.
In his book, The Journey, Smith recounted Kohli’s accusations of cheating and rubbished the Indian skipper’s claims.
“It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised what a talking point it had become, fuelled by Kohli’s post-match claims that we’d called on off-field assistance twice earlier in the match to help our on-field deliberations,” Smith wrote in his book.
The incident Smith was referring to came during the second Test of the series in Bengaluru with the visitors 1-0 up following their unexpected triumph at Pune. Batting in the fourth innings, Smith was adjudged lbw by Nigel Long and had sought the opinion of the non-striker, Peter Handscomb, on whether to review the call.
Handscomb had in turn motioned to the dressing room for an answer and following this, Long had promptly Smith back without the luxury of a review.
“As far as I was concerned, we’d never tried to consult with the dressing room beforehand and although he said he’d brought those previous occasions to the notice of the umpires, I can say categorically that we were never spoken to by either those umpires or match referee Chris Broad about any such breaches in protocol,” Smith adds in his book.
Smith poured cold water over Kohli’s claims and said that he had been surprised that the Indian captain had taken things so far.
“Virat has always been a player who’s thrived in the most intense of environments, and like me he loves a battle and I can only think it was his way of raising the temperature in the series in an attempt to get the best out of himself. The idea of getting messages from the sidelines for that purpose was not a tactic we as a team ever spoke about. I can’t work out what he was referring to in his remarks,” Smith said in another passage from his book.
“There was never anything further on the matter from the ICC and Virat never detailed the incidents he was referring to. And during the brief interactions we had – including at the captain’s briefing for the IPL as that tournament followed the series – he was friendly and it was as if any ill-feeling he may have had over the incident had disappeared. It was and still is all a big mystery to me.”
India had managed to overturn Australia’s win at Pune to claim the series 2-1 in a hard-fought manner.