Shahid Afridi proved once again that he is a match-winner as Pakistan got their revenge in fine style, registering a 23-run win over Sri Lanka to level the two-match Twenty20 series in Hambantota.
Afridi stood out with a superb all-round show, hitting a 33-ball 52 that first propelled Pakistan to a total of 122 before grabbing two crucial wickets to help dismiss Sri Lanka for 99.
A poor batting performance had let Pakistan down in the opener on Friday and it was the same story yesterday as the tourists crawled to 41 for four in the 11th over. However, Shoaib Malik and Afridi added 68 off just 50 deliveries to give the total some respectability.
In reply, Yasir Arafat, replacing Umar Gul in the squad, made the most of his opportunity, getting rid of Kumar Sangakkara as Sri Lanka lost their opener with the score on 19. He then dismissed Nuwan Kulasekara, who played a reckless shot, as Pakistan’s chances got a much-needed boost.
It was then Afridi who pegged back Sri Lanka with the wicket of Tillakaratne Dilshan and then sent Chamara Kapugedera packing. Sohail Tanvir played his part with a wicket and Mohammad Sami returned to claim three scalps as Pakistan turned the tables on the hosts.
Sami finished with three for 16 and Arafat took three for 18 but it was Afridi’s batting that set up the series-levelling win for Pakistan.
“I am feeling really good,” said Afridi. “The bottom line is that my team won. What else could I want?
“Arafat and Tanvir bowled really well and after that we just put pressure on. Coach [Dav] Whatmore is doing a really good job with the team and has given me some space to focus on my skills.”
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez praised the effort of the players. “It was a great team effort where everybody played his role,” said Hafeez. “The partnership between Malik and Afridi was crucial for us. With the new ball Tanvir was brilliant and then Afridi and Saeed Ajmal applied a lot of pressure on Sri Lanka and that helped our cause.”
Angelo Mathews, who led the side in the absence of the rested Mahela Jayawardene, admitted his side was outplayed. “We lost our way in the middle,” said Mathews. “We were brilliant in the field and they gave 100% but the second-innings wasn’t ours at all.”
The two teams now contest five One-Day Internationals starting from June 7.
View pictures from the match here.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2012.