ISLAMABAD: After suffering early blows, a resurgent Pakistan cricket team on Thursday handed Sri Lanka a respectable 253-run target in Colombo, as the two sides locked horns in a must-win clash at the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup 2023.
Intermittent rain delays in Colombo reduced the 50-over fixture to 42 overs. Pakistan, who are facing Sri Lanka after Monday’s humiliating 228-run loss to India, need to win today’s fixture against the Asia Cup defending champions to make it to the final of the tournament. A washout will ensure Sri Lanka goes through to the final on Sunday against India.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam won the toss and elected to bat first. Opening batter Fakhar Zaman continued his poor run of form at the Asia Cup, heading to the pavilion after only scoring 4 runs when he was dismissed by Matheesha Pathirana. Batter Abdullah Shafique and skipper Babar Azam put on a 64-run partnership for the second wicket before Azam was stumped off a Dunith Wellalage delivery for 29 runs.
Shafique scored 52 off 69 balls before he was dismissed by Pathirana while Mohammad Haris and Mohammad Nawaz followed quickly for 3 and 12 runs respectively, putting Pakistan in trouble at 130-5. However, a 108-run partnership between Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed propelled Pakistan to a respectable 252-7 at the end of 42 overs. Rizwan top-scored for Pakistan with an unbeaten 86-run innings off 73 balls while Ahmed scored 47 runs from 40 balls.
Rizwan’s innings included two sixes and six fours while Ahmed smashed two sixes and four fours from his innings. For Sri Lanka, Pathirana was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with figures of 3/65 from 8 overs while Pramod Madushan finished with 2/58 from 7 overs. Maheesh Theekshana and Wellalage each took a wicket.
Earlier, Pakistani batter Saud Shakeel and Imam ul Haq were ruled out of the playing XI squad after the former suffered from a fever while the latter suffered a back spasm during warm-up. Zaman and Shafique were included in the squad in their place.
Pakistan have also called in right-arm pacer Zaman Khan to replace the injured Naseem Shah against Sri Lanka for the Asia Cup tournament.
Khan and Shahnawaz Dahani were called up as reserve pacers by the PCB as a “precautionary move” following injuries to pacers Haris Rauf and Shah during Monday’s Asia Cup fixture against India. Both bowlers picked up niggles, sparking worries for Pakistan who will travel to India next month to play in the 50-over ODI World Cup.
Pakistan: Mohammad Haris, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (wkt), Abdullah Shafique, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan (vice-capt), Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Wasim, Zaman Khan
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis (wkt), Sadeera Samarawickrama, Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Dasun Shanaka (capt), Dunith Wellalage, Maheesh Theekshana, Pramod Madushan, Matheesha Pathirana