| Tillekeratne Dilshan (right) celebrates with teammates the dismissal of Taufeeq Umer in Dambulla Sunday. (AFP)
Dambulla: Muttiah Muralidharan claimed five for 23 to help Sri Lanka clinch a tense 12-run victory Sunday against Pakistan in a low-scoring tri-series league match and boost their hopes of making the final.
Sri Lanka recovered from a disastrous start to reach 172 in 49.5 overs before Muralidharan turned on his magic to send Pakistan crashing to 160 all out in 47.4 overs, avenging the 79-run loss to the same opponent in the tri-series opener.
Muralidharan, 31, bagged his seventh five-wicket haul in 219 one-dayers and proved that pace wasn’t the only match-winner on this lively track. Pakistan lost their last four wickets for 18 runs.
Sri Lanka now lead the table in the double-round preliminary league with 10 points, while New Zealand and Pakistan have seven points each.
Each win is worth five points and bonus points are awarded if the winners achieve a run-rate 1.25 times that of the opposition, but the losing team retains the point by not conceding it.
Sri Lanka have won two out of their three matches, but could only clinch five points from each victory. New Zealand have one win and one loss, while Pakistan have won just one of the three matches.
Pakistan skipper Rashid Latif snapped five catches, but a fighting 79-run partnership between Tillekeratne Dilshan and Kumara Dharmasena pulled Sri Lanka out of a precarious position to give the hosts a fighting chance.
The top-half of Sri Lanka’s batting had perished for 53 before Dilshan and Dharmasena’s rescue act pulled them back into the game.
Playing in his 156th one-dayer, Latif, 34, equalled Pakistan’s record of five dismissals in one match and fell one short of the world record for the second time in his career.
Latif had earlier claimed five dismissals against New Zealand during the 1996 World Cup, but shares the Pakistan one-day record with Moin Khan, who also has achieved the five-dismissal feat twice — against Zimbabwe in 1994-95 and versus Australia in 1999-2000.
The world record of six dismissals is shared by three wicketkeepers, Adam Gilchrist (Australia), Alec Stewart (England) and Ridley Jacobs (West Indies).
Latif took the catches of opener Sanath Jayasuriya (6), skipper Maravan Atapattu (9), Kumar Sangakkara (17), Dilshan (46) and Kaushalya Lokuarachchi (5) after the move of asking Sri Lanka to bat first earned quick dividends.
The attacking opening duo of Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana (1) perished with just 13 runs on the board. Jayasuriya was the first to go, edging an outswinger from pace bowler Mohammed Sami to Latif, while Kaluwitharana failed in his attempt to pull Pakistan’s pace ace Shoaib Akhtar over mid-wicket and holed out to Shabbir Ahmed.
Medium pacer Ahmed, 27, playing his first one-dayer in three years after he was reported to the International Cricket Council (ICC) for chucking, elicited an edge from captain Atapattu into Latif’s gloves.