- By BV Swagath
Sri Lanka crushed Pakistan by a massive margin of 37 runs in the First T20I as the visitors failed with the bat miserably. Nuwan Kulasekara set the tone for the hosts taking two wickets with the first two balls of the Pakistani innings! Angelo Mathews coming in as the backup produced dream figures of 4-1-8-2 as the Pakistanis remained completely on the backfoot in their run chase of 133.
By the 10th over, the visitors were going nowhere at 46 for 4. The match was virtually sealed when the duo of Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi perished in the space of five balls leaving Pakistan at 70 for 6 in 13.1 overs.
Sri Lanka kept its intensity both with the ball and the field as Pakistan crumbled to 95 all out in 17.4 overs. One of the highlights on the field was the tall Thisara Perera diving full length at thirdman to take a stunning catch. The top scorer for Pakistan in their dismal innings was opener Ahmed Shehzad who scored 36 from 42 balls with 3 fours and a six before falling in the 16th over.
For the hosts, Kulasekara, Malinga, Mathews and Senanayake took two wickets each. The Man of the Match award went to all-rounder Thisara Perera who excelled in all the three departments of the game.
Perera cameo helps SL recover to 132/7:
A superb new ball spell of 3/12 in 4 overs on the trot from left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir helped Pakistan restrict Sri Lanka to a below par total in the opening T20I. Sri Lanka found themselves at a disastrous position at 39 for 4 in the 8th over with all its star batsmen biting the dust. However, the Sri Lankans got to a total of 132 for 7 out of nowhere thanks to a crucial cameo of 32* from 16 balls (with 2 fours and 2 sixes) from Thisara Perera.
Apart from Perera, left-handed Lahiru Thirimanne scored 30 from 25 balls with 5 fours. The other batsmen simply failed to come good on a pitch that looked to be on the slower side. Sohail Tanvir dented the Lankans by removing the star players – Skipper Jayawardene (caught off a leading edge in a flick), Dilshan (caught at long leg) and Sangakkara (dragging an expansive drive onto the stumps by the 5th over!
With Tanvir putting the Lankans on the backfoot, the spin trio of Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez strangled the hosts in the middle overs. Towards the end, Pakistan went onto leak a few runs because of a superb assault from Thisara Perera.
Toss and Teams: Hosts Sri Lanka have won the toss and elected to bat first in the opening T20I at Hambantota. The Lankans have gone in for an experienced side. Kaushal Lokuarachchi, the leg spinner makes it to the XI. Pakistan’s new Captain in this format – Mohammad Hafeez informs that there is a debutant in Wicket Keeper Shakeel Ansar. And lastly, fast bowler Mohammad Sami makes yet another comeback for the Pakistanis.
The pitch at the Mahinda Rajapaksha International Cricket Stadium in Hambatota could be of an unpredictable nature. The pitch looks very dry with hardly any grass on it.
Pakistan XI: Mohammad Hafeez (Captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Khalid Latif, Shakeel Ansar (Wicket Keeper), Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Sami, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul
Sri Lanka XI: Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Mahela Jayawardene (Captain), Kumar Sangakkara (Wicket Keeper), Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews, Thissara Perera, Lasith Malinga, Nuwan Kulasekara, Kaushal Lokuarachchi, Sachithra Senanayake