Whenever the Islanders have landed in Lahore as underdogs, they have made sure to defy the odds. Let’s not make this as huge as that Lahore night in 1996, but the fact that a so called ‘second-string’ Sri Lankan side has won a T20I series against Pakistan – Something their predecessors had never done – and also opting to treat the dead-rubber as just that, is phenomenal.
The Lions made wholesale changes to the team coming into this 3rd and final T20I making a bold call to give opportunities to the ones sitting out. In came the wicket keeper batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama replacing the newbie Minod Bhanuka while Angelo Perera and Oshada Fernando were slotted in for batsmen Avishka Fernando and Shehan Jayasuriya. It marked a memorable T20I debut for Oshada. All-rounder Isuru Udana gave his spot to Lahiru Madushanka while quick Nuwan Pradeep made way for Lahiru Kumara.
Pakistan too had made a few obvious tweaks to their lineup as the two comeback flops, Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad were dropped from the team while the 19-year-old Muhammad Hasnain was also left out of the XI. Top-order batsman Haris Sohail, all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed and left-arm speedster Usman Shinwari were added in place of them.
Sri Lankan Skipper, Dasun Shanaka, almost instantly decided to bat first after winning the toss, sticking to the habits from the past two wins.
The wicket was flat again with an ever so slight tinge of grass covering the surface. It was a good strip to bat on but quicks had a bit of assistance from the wicket too.
In form Danushka Gunathilaka walked out with Sadeera Samarawickrama to open the batting. The pair had posted a 154 run stand this August playing for Sri Lanka Board President’s XI against New Zealand, yet the results were negative this time.
Gunathilaka went a little too hard too early. He was out bowled by Mohammad Amir for 8 runs while Samarawickrama who is fighting for a spot in which now seems to be a highly competitive XI succumbed to his own misery. He was dropped after scoring a fifty in 2018 and since then his scores in international cricket has been 0, 6 and 12 today.
Exciting Bhanuka Rajapakse (3) too failed to continue to impress so did Angelo Perera who made only 13 runs.
Sri Lanka were 3 for 30 in five overs when debutant Oshada Fernando walked into the middle. He started his innings with a flick off his pads for four and followed it with a gorgeous straight drive over the bowler’s head for a six. He even held that handsome pose for the photographers!
Fernando played an exceptional knock under pressure to save Sri Lanka from humiliation. He became the highest scorer on T20I debut for Sri Lanka with his unbeaten 78 runs.
Sri Lanka scored 147 runs in their quota of overs, thanks to Fernando and Pakistan’s awful fielding where Pakistan grounded 5 catches and missed a stumping.
Amir finally managed to open his wickets tally in this series as he was the pick of the bowlers with 3 wickets for 27 runs.
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Kasun Rajitha delivered a peach of a inswinger to start Sri Lanka’s bowling innings, getting rid of Fakhar Zaman with the very first delivery. He hit timber swinging it back in at the left-hander.
But from then on Pakistan built the innings steadily, putting up a 75-run partnership between Babar Azam and Haris Sohail. Sohail scored a comeback fifty while Azam scored a nervy 27.
But, one thing they did not look at was the run rate. The strike rates of the top three runs-scorers in the top-order read 104, 106 and 84. It came back to haunt them at the end.
The hosts slipped from 94 for 3 at the start of the 16th over to 111 for 6 at the end of the 18th over.
Wanindu Hasaranga was yet again brilliant with the ball, bagging 3 wickets for 21 runs during those crucial overs.
Kasun Rajitha showed maturity with the ball and announced himself as someone for the future. Bowling at 4.25 an over in T20 cricket is simply scintillating.
Lahiru Kumara was also spot on with the ball as he picked up 2 wickets for 24 runs.
The game was almost sewn up by the end of the 18th over which saw two wickets forjust the 7 runs conceded by Hasaranga.
The equation read 28 off the last over which the Lankans managed to save comfortably.
A second-string team they said, this Sri Lankan team is the second youngest team to take the field for Sri Lanka ever. At an average age of 26.5, it is also the most inexperienced Sri Lankan outfit since 2009, with just 99 matches between the XI of them. But, here they are at the end of the series, having recorded Sri Lanka’s first-ever T20I series win against Pakistan and the first-ever 3-0 series win in T20Is for Sri Lanka.
Players like Wanindu Hasaranga and Bhanuka Rajapakshe have grabbed the opportunity given with both hands. Dasun Shanaka has announced himself as outstanding leadership material and as a whole the team has shown that cricket is not dying in Sri Lanka!
“There aren’t any extra-ordinary players here, they are all equally talented. Bonding and unity is the key. That is how we defeated Pakistan” ended Dasun Shanaka.
|Danushka Gunathilaka||b Mohammad Amir||8||9||1||0||88.89|
|Sadeera Samarawickrama||lbw b Imad Wasim||12||12||1||0||100.00|
|Bhanuka Rajapaksha||c Asif Ali b Mohammad Amir||3||8||0||0||37.50|
|Angelo Perera||run out (Iftikhar Ahmed)||13||11||1||0||118.18|
|Oshada Fernando||not out||78||48||8||3||162.50|
|Dasun Shanaka||c Fakhar Zaman b Wahab Riaz||12||25||0||0||48.00|
|Lahiru Madushanka||c Iftikhar Ahmed b Mohammad Amir||1||3||0||0||33.33|
|Wanindu Hasaranga||run out (Usman Khan)||6||4||1||0||150.00|
|Extras||14 (b 0 , lb 1 , nb 0, w 13, pen 0)|
|Total||147/7 (20 Overs, RR: 7.35)|
|Fall of Wickets||1-24 (2.6) Danushka Gunathilaka, 2-28 (3.6) Sadeera Samarawickrama, 3-30 (4.6) Bhanuka Rajapaksha, 4-58 (7.6) Angelo Perera, 5-134 (17.6) Dasun Shanaka, 6-140 (18.6) Lahiru Madushanka, 7-147 (19.6) Wanindu Hasaranga,|
|Fakhar Zaman||b Kasun Rajitha||0||1||0||0||0.00|
|Babar Azam||c Sadeera Samarawickrama b Lahiru Kumara||27||32||1||0||84.38|
|Haris Sohail||st Sadeera Samarawickrama b Wanindu Hasaranga||52||50||4||1||104.00|
|Sarfaraz Ahmed||b Wanindu Hasaranga||17||16||1||0||106.25|
|Imad Wasim||c Wanindu Hasaranga b Lahiru Kumara||3||5||0||0||60.00|
|Asif Ali||c Danushka Gunathilaka b Wanindu Hasaranga||1||2||0||0||50.00|
|Iftikhar Ahmed||not out||17||8||1||1||212.50|
|Wahab Riaz||not out||12||6||0||1||200.00|
|Extras||5 (b 0 , lb 1 , nb 0, w 4, pen 0)|
|Total||134/6 (20 Overs, RR: 6.7)|
|Fall of Wickets||1-0 (0.1) Fakhar Zaman, 2-76 (11.6) Babar Azam, 3-94 (15.1) Haris Sohail, 4-103 (16.4) Imad Wasim, 5-104 (17.1) Asif Ali, 6-111 (17.6) Sarfaraz Ahmed,|