Perera powers Sri Lanka to victory over Pakistan
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Opening batsman Kusal Perera hit a career-best 84 off 59 balls and protected Sri Lanka’s No. 1 ranking with a series-levelling 24-run victory over Pakistan in the second and final Twenty20 international on Friday.
Perera smashed five fours and four sixes as Sri Lanka posted 211-3 — the highest ever conceded by Pakistan in the shortest format of the game.
Pakistan opener Sharjeel Khan hit a brisk 50 off 25 balls and Sohail Tanvir resisted with a late 41 but offspinner Sachithra Senanayake (3-27) ran through the middle order to dismiss Pakistan for 187 in 19.2 overs.
Perera set the tone for a big total when he put on a century opening stand with Tillakaratne Dilshan (48) off 72 balls before Kumar Sangakkara’s 44 off 21 balls took the game away from Pakistan.
Pakistan won the first match by three wickets on Wednesday but their dreams of dislodging Sri Lanka from the No. 1 spot were dashed when they lost four wickets for two runs in the middle of the run-chase.
“We are over the moon as we keep our No. 1 ranking,” Sri Lanka captain Dinesh Chandimal said. “Kusal and Dilshan batted really well ... (and) you know he’s a legend (Sangakkara), he’s a world-class batsman.”
Debutant spinner Seekkuge Prasanna (2-45) and Senanayake did the damage in successive overs as Pakistan crashed from 83-3 to 85-7.
Legspinner Prasanna ignited the collapse when he clean bowled the left-hander Khan around his legs after being hit for two successive sixes and then Umar Akmal (0) could not read the googly and was bowled for zero.
Offspinner Senanayake then had the wickets of Umar Amin and Bilawal Bhatti off successive deliveries before Shahid Afridi (28) hit two fours and two sixes but skied a catch and was brilliantly caught by diving Sangakkara one-handedly.
With Pakistan staring big defeat at 121-8 in the 14th over, Tanvir played the highest ever knock by No. 9 batsman in Twenty20s and added 63 runs for the ninth wicket stand with Saeed Ajmal (20) before falling to Lasith Malinga.
Earlier, after being put in to bat for the second successive match, Perera and Dilshan smashed the new ball bowlers Usman Khan Shinwari and Bilawal Bhatti at will.
The 19-year-old Shinwari, playing in only his second international, failed to contain the flow of runs and ended up with 0-52 — Pakistan second worst ever bowling figures in Twenty20 internationals.
“We made the right decision (to bowl first) but we leaked them the runs and could not bowl in the right areas,” said Hafeez, who himself had miserable figures of 0-45 with his offspin.
“Sri Lankans played very well, but unfortunately those four wickets in eight balls (in the middle order) made the difference in the end.”
Dilshan, who hit four boundaries off fast bowler Bhatti’s one over, fell to offspinner Saeed Ajmal when he holed out in the deep while attempting a reverse sweep.
Sangakkara then continued in the same vein and hit four boundaries and two sixes as Perera bettered his previous best knock of 64 made against Bangladesh earlier this year before he was finally run out off the last ball of the innings while attempting a second run.
Both teams now play five-match one-day series with Sharjah hosting the first match next Wednesday.
“We have some tricks up our sleeves for the ODIs, and have our game plans for the series,” Chandimal said.