Sri Lanka gave Pakistan a dose of their own medicine - showing some brilliant all-round bowling skills -- on their way to a convincing 16-run victory in the first semi-final of the World T20.
Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene celebrates with Rangana Herath after taking the wicket of Pakistan's Shahid Afridi in the World T20 semi-final at the Premadasa Stadium
A packed house at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo were overjoyed, the drums and songs bellowing out as Nuwan Kulasekara delivered the final over, with the nails in Pakistan's coffin already hammered in by then, by two outstanding overs from Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga.
Needing a modest 140 runs to make their third final in four tournaments, Pakistan stuttered, stumbled and eventually succumbed to the Lankan fire, ending up on 123 for seven, as Mahela Jayawardene's men await the winner between Australia and West Indies, in their own backyard.
Pakistan started the chase well enough, with Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir giving a solid base, even if it might not have been a quick start, both openers seemingly erring on the side of caution given the size of the occasion.
Nazir (20 in 21) was the first to fall, bamboozled by the excellent Mendis, who finished with figures of two for 27 from four overs. Nasir Jamshed and Kamran Akmal fell quickly, falling in the same over to Angelo Mathews as Sri Lanka, with Pakistan on 57 for three, took a stranglehold of the game.
That pressure created, allowed Rangana Herath, a brilliant selection by Jayawardene, to take advantage, as the left-arm spinner took the next three Pakistani wickets, within the space of five overs.
Before you knew it, Pakistan had gone from 57 for three to 90 for six, Herath ending up with figures of three for 25 from his four overs.
Pakistan needed an improbable 32 runs from the last three overs, with all hopes pinned on Umar Akmal. However, it was all Sri Lanka in the final 18 balls, as Mendis - in the 18th - and Malinga - in the penultimate over - gave away a mere nine runs, meaning the former champions needed 23 from the final over.
Akmal huffed and puffed, but could not connect off Kulasekara's bowling.
Earlier, Mahela Jayawardene continued his sparkling form in the tournament, as Tillakaratne Dilshan played a strangely sedate innings of 35 from 43 balls. It was up to the Sri Lankan captain to provide the impetus to the innings, with Dilshan struggling to rotate the strike or find the boundaries. Jayawardene did his bit, scoring 42 from 36 balls, negotiating the Pakistani spinners nicely, before leaving it to the middle order to step up the proceedings.
Ajmal wasn't at his usual best, going for 33 runs in his four overs, picking up just a single wicket of Jeevan Mendis. In fact Pakistan's two best T20 bowlers - Ajmal and Umar Gul - turned out to be the most expensive, with the latter going for 16 runs in the final over. That played a massive role in taking Sri Lanka to 139 for four, a total which proved too much for the men in green.
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