Cardiff: Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by 3 wickets on Monday to reach ICC Champions Trophy 2017 semis. Chasing the victory target of 237, Pakistan achieved it with more than 5 overs remaining.
Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmad leads from the front and scored an unbeaten century to guide his team to victory and a place for his team in Champions Trophy semi-finals.
In pursuit of 237, Pakistan were cruising only to falter in the mid innings. They were led by a brilliant fightback posed by Mohammad Amir and skipper Sarfraz Ahmed as Pakistan move to the next round of the tournament.
Sri Lanka were let down by a middle order collapse and sloppy fielding. From Group B, India and Pakistan progress to the top 4 and will play Bangladesh and England respectively.
Chasing 237, Pakistan openers did not allow the Sri Lankan bowlers to settle. The pair of Azhar Ali and Fakhar Zaman started off on a blazing note.
Zaman, playing his second match, continued from where he left against South Africa. He was in a punishable mood against the veteran Lasith Malinga. Zaman waited for the slower ones, came hard against the deliveries offering width and did not bog down when the Sri Lankan pitched it short.
Gaining confidence, he ensured the bad balls were sent to the ropes against Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep as well.
Azhar, generally playing the waiting game, joined the party in the 8th over. He welcomed Thisara Perera by advancing down the track and smacked the ball to River Taff. Zaman followed suit and sent another one to the river in the very next over.
This time the bowler facing the onslaught was Pradeep. The duo added 50-run stand in 52 balls whereas the left-hander slammed his maiden fifty in the 11th over. Nonetheless, Pradeep got rid of Zaman as he failed to connect a hook shot and was caught at fine leg.
The Pakistani flags outnumbered the Sri Lankan Papare in the stands with the former well placed at 90 for 1 in 15 overs.
However, Babar Azam’s dismissal changed the complexion of the game. His was a soft dismissal; trying to clip one towards leg side only to be picked at mid wicket.
The pair of Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar never got going and led to another soft dismissal of the senior pro. Pradeep got his second scalp and the Islanders were back in the hunt.
Earlier, Sri Lanka collapsed to 236 all out.
Sri Lanka, sent in to bat, were making steady progress at 160 for three while after 30th over with top-scorers Niroshan Dickwella (73) and skipper Angelo Mathews (39) were at the crease.
But the loss of Mathews sparked a middle-order collapse that saw four wickets lost for just six runs as Sri Lanka slumped to 167 for seven.
Only same late tail-order hitting, with the last three wickets adding 69 runs, got Sri Lanka past 200 in an innings where Pakistan pacemen Junaid Khan (3-40) and Hasan Ali (3-43) did the bulk of the damage.
Prior to their middle-order slup, Sri Lanka lost two wickets for one run to be 83 for three.
Hasan, as he'd done while taking three wickets in Pakistan's surprise win over South Africa, went wide of the crease to bowl Kusal Mendis (27) with a brilliant delivery angled towards the legside that cut away and clipped the top of off stump.
Two balls later, medium-pacer Fahim Ashraf struck on his ODI debut when Dinesh Chandimal played on for a duck.
Mathews helped staunch the flow of wickets while keeping the scoreboard ticking over as Dickwella dug in.
All-rounder Mathews, fresh from an unbeaten fifty in Sri Lanka's shock seven-wicket victory over India, drove off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez for six, while Dickwella ended a sequence of 54 balls without a boundary by cover-driving left-arm spinner Imad Wasim for four.
Mathews, however, fell when an inside edge off Mohammad Amir gave the elated left-arm paceman his first wicket of the tournament.
Dhananjaya de Silva, only recently arrived as a replacement for the injured Kusal Perera, managed just one before, squared up by Junaid, he edged to Pakistan's wicket-keeper captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Asela Gunaratne, dropped on two when Sarfraz lost control of a diving chance off Amir, chipped in with 27 before Ashraf (2-37) ended the innings with four balls to spare when he caught and bowled Nuwan Pradeep.
Sri Lanka - 236 (Dickwella 73, Junaid 3-40, Hasan Ali 3-43)
Pakistan - 237 for 7 (Sarfraz 61*, Zaman 50, Pradeep 3-60)
Result - Pakistan won by 3 wickets