Dubai: Pakistan rode on Babar Azam’s century and brilliant bowling by its seamers upfront to notch a convincing 83-run victory against Sri Lanka in the first one-day international on Friday.
Azam returned to form with 103 off 131 balls and Shoaib Malik swelled Pakistan total to 292-6 by smashing 81 off 61 deliveries after being sent into bat.
Seamers Hasan Ali and Rumman Raees snared six wickets in between them before Lahiru Thirimanne (53) and Akila Dananjaya (50 not out) delayed the inevitable and carried Sri Lanka to 209-8.
Malik and Azam combined in a 139-run fourth wicket stand before both fell to seamer Suranga Lakmal (2-47) late in the innings as Pakistan scored 89 runs in the last 10 overs.
Lahiru Thirimanne was the only Sri Lankan top-order batsman who played with any authority for his 53 as Pakistan took regular wickets to take a 1-0 lead in the five-match series.
Akila Dananjaya (50 not out) and Jeffrey Vandersay (25) delayed the result as they took Sri Lanka from 132-7 to 200-8 during their 68-run eighth-wicket stand but it was too little, too late.
Left-armer Raees broke a quick 30-run opening partnership as he removed Niroshan Dickwella (19) and Dinesh Chandimal in successive overs, while Mohammad Hafeez dismissed captain Upul Tharanga for 18.
Medium pacer Ali had two wickets off two balls as he dislodged Kusal Mendis and Milinda Siriwardana to leave Sri Lanka struggling at 67-5.
Pakistan292 for 6 (Babar 103, Malik 81, Lakmal 2-47) beat Sri Lanka 209 for 8 (Thirimanne 53, Dananjaya 50*, Hasan 3-36, Raees 3-49) by 83 runs
Earlier, Azam's hundred came off 128 balls in the next over with a single, but three runs later he miscued a drive off paceman Suranga Lakmal, who finished with 2-47 from his ten overs.
Azam, who hit only five boundaries, had managed a poor 38 runs in the preceding 2-0 Test-series defeat but batted with guts to prove his credentials as a limited-overs batsman.
Pakistan plundered 89 in the last ten overs.
The nominal hosts got off to a poor start when opener Ahmed Shehzad fell for a 12-ball duck, caught off Lahiru Gamage in the fourth over of the innings.
Fakhar Zaman and Azam took the total to 75 before Akila Dananjaya bowled the opener with a googly.
The left-handed Zaman played well during his 45-ball 42 though, hitting four fours and a six.
The second ODI of five-match series will be played at Abu Dhabi on Monday.