Malinga Dashes Pakistan Hopes Afridi Century in Vain

Dambulla, Jun 16 (IANS): Shahid Afridi's blazing century went in vain as Lasith Malinga's five wicket burst saw Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by 16 runs in a thrilling opening match of the Asia Cup cricket here Tuesday.

Chasing a winning target of 243 runs, Pakistan was rescued from a disastrous start by skipper Afridi (109) but they lost the plot in the end to go down with three overs to spare.

Afridi struck 109 off 76 balls that included eight fours and seven sixes and shared a 73 run stand with Umar Akmal (30) after Pakistan were looking down the barrel at 32 for four.

Express fast bolwer Malinga (5-34), who along with Angelo Mathews (2-38) rocked Pakistan batting at the top, came back to snuff the challenge out of the visitors with some fiery bowling at the death.

Malinga shattered the stumps of Mohammad Aamer and foxed comeback man Shoaib Akhtar with a well-disguised slower ball in a space of three deliveries in the 45th over. He then knocked off last man Mohammad Asif's middle stumps.

Abdul Razzaq, who scored 26 off 46 balls with two fours, was left stranded.

Pakistan, in fact, were cruising to victory as they needed 38 runs from 56 balls with Afridi in awesome form. But old fox Mutthiah Muralitharan removed Afridi with captain Kumar Sangkarra holding onto a good reflex catch and then Sri Lankan bowlers tightened the screws as the match slowly slipped out of Pakistan's grasp.

Muralitharan (1-71), who was struck for fives sixes by Afridi, however, had the last laugh.

Mathews, Malinga and Muralitharan and Nuwan Kulasekara (1-25) stifled the Pakistan batting. Hopes rested on Razzaq, but he never got any chance as he had to shield the lower order batsmen.

Afridi's century came after five years, but Malinga's career best performance dashed Pakistan hopes.

Earlier, Sri Lanka after electing to bat had a shaky start losing openers Upul Tharanga and Tillekaratne Dilshan with 36 runs on the board. Kumar Sangakkara (42) and Mahela Jayawardene (54) added 83 runs to steady the ship.

Sangakkara's 63-ball innings had four boundaries while Jayawardene's patient 64-ball knock had three fours.

All-rounder Mathews played his part with the bat too and remained unbeaten on 55 facing 61 balls with four fours.

Shoaib Akhtar bowled a good spell on his return to international cricket, claiming three wickets for 41 runs.



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