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Malinga wins it for Lanka

- Pakistan lose last six wickets for just 42 runs
Lahiru Thirimanne after his century, in Fatullah, on Tuesday

Fatullah: It appeared to be a smooth sailing for Pakistan when captain Misbah-ul Haq and Umar Akmal scored at will during their fifth-wicket partnership in pursuit of Sri Lanka’s 296 for six.

But for Lasith Malinga, the game was far from over. It wasn’t about unleashing the trademark toe-crushers, but Malinga bowled an immaculate line on the placid pitch to finish with figures five for 52, eking out a 12-run victory for Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup opener, here, at the Khan Shaheb Osman Ali Stadium, on Tuesday.

From a commanding 242 for four in the 43 rd over, Pakistan lost their last six wickets for just another 42 runs as Sri Lanka wrapped up the match with seven balls to spare.

Pakistan started their run chase on an attacking note, with opener Sharjeel Khan picking up quite a few boundaries before being dismissed by medium-pacer Suranga Lakmal for 26. Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammed Hafeez led their team’s recovery with a 49-run stand for the second wicket, but Sri Lanka fought back with quick strikes as Pakistan slipped to 83 for three inside 14 overs.

While Shehzad was cleaned up by left-arm spinner Chaturanga de Silva for 28, Hafeez was trapped leg-before by Angelo Mathews.

Misbah (73) and Sohaib Maqsood steadied Pakistan with their cautious approach as they reached 121 for three in the 24 th over before tweaker Sachithra Senanayake got the latter caught at deep mid-wicket by Chaturanga.

With six wickets in hand and still requiring 175 runs to win, Pakistan looked in all sorts of trouble with their innings in complete disarray. But the pair of Akmal (74) and Misbah combined well and launched a counter offensive against the Sri Lankans to regain the lost ground.

Both played aggressively and treated the loose deliveries with disdain to take Pakistan to 240 for 4, requiring 57 off 48 balls.

Lakmal then returned to snare the prised wicket of Akmal, who couldn’t stop himself as he went for a massive drive on the up, only managing an outside edge to ’keeper Sangakkara.

Pakistan lost the plot and just could not recover, thereafter. Misbah also ran out of his patience and was dismissed by Malinga, trying to go for an expansive shot.

Earlier, electing to bat, Sri Lanka made a watchful start before opener Lahiru Thirimanne and Kumar Sangakkara amassed runs at good pace and took Sri Lanka to the 100-mark in the 20th over.

The duo then changed gears, piling up 68 runs in the next 10 overs. Sangakkara, who has been in superb form, brought up his 84th fifty in as many balls in the 27th over when he blasted Mohammad Hafeez for a boundary through the mid-wicket area.

However, Pakistan came back in the match with Gul dismissing Sangakkara in the 32nd over when his miscued pull landed at the hands of Ahmed Shehzad.

Thirimanne brought up his hundred with a cover drive off Gul, but the opener could not stay longer as off-spinner Ajmal disturbed his off stump in the 36th over. Shahid Afridi then removed Mahela Jayawardene and Thisara Perera in quick succession, as Sri Lanka struggled to maintain the tempo at the death overs.

However, captain Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal shared an unbroken 45-run stand for the seventh wicket to ensure Sri Lanka get closer to the 300-mark.