After all the twists and turns, the task at hand was manageable. Pakistan needed 17 off the last two overs. Bilawal Bhatti and Saeed Ajmal were doing everything right. It's just that they ran into Lasith Malinga and his patented yorkers. Rising on his five-form, Sri Lanka came up trumps by 12 runs in the opening clash of the Asia Cup in Fatullah on Tuesday.
The humdinger had its fair share of star performers. Lahiru Thirimanne scored a brilliant hundred, Kumar Sangakkara made 67 and skipper Angelo Mathews smashed his way to an enterprising 55 as the islanders finished with a huge 296/6 on a belter. At one stage, they were looking at at 330-plus total.
Each of Pakistan's top four batsmen got starts, but not one crossed even the 30-run mark. With the scoreboard reading 121/4 in the 24th over, Umar Akmal joined skipper Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle.
And in less than 20 overs, the score doubled! Akmal was brilliant all along, playing delightful drives. In all, he hit seven fours and three sixes in a 72-ball 74. Misbah, who was his typical self, collected 73 off 83. But with 54 needed in eight overs, Malinga sparked a mini-collapse of sorts. And clearly, Pakistan had squandered the advantage.
They lost Akmal, Shahid Afridi and Misbah — in that order — in no time. First, Suranga Lakmal had Ukmal caught behind. Minutes later, Malinga prompted Afridi to slap one to short cover where Dinesh Chandimal took a blinder. Had he not pouched that, the ball would have ripped into his belly. Such was the power in Afridi's shot that the fielder was forced off his feet. Two balls later, Misbah holed out at deep square leg.
Bhatti, who made 18, and Jamal (10) did give Pakistan hope, but Malinga came back and finished the job.
Earlier, Thirimanne and Sangakkara had come together with Sri Lanka 28/1 in the eighth over. They were separated only in the 32nd over. By then, they had added 161 runs in 146 balls. Thirimanne, who hit his second ODI century, played well off his legs. And Sangakkara was at his classy best, employing the cut shot to good effect. Sri Lanka were reduced to 251/6 in the 44th over, but skipper Mathews took them to 296.