Pakistan 345 for 4 (Rizwan 131*, Shafique 113, Madushanka 2-60) beat Sri Lanka 344 for 9 (Mendis 122, Samarawickrama 108, Hasan Ali 4-71) by six wickets
Sri Lanka were served a harsh lesson in the realities of modern ODI cricket, as Pakistan hunted down a target of 345 – the highest-ever chase in a World Cup – with six wickets to spare.
Leading their charge were tons from Abdullah Shafique and Muhammad Rizwan, which trumped a pair of centuries by Kusal Mendia and Sadeera Samarawickrama, to make it two wins from two for Pakistan.
Rizwan, who suffered from at times seemingly debilitating cramps – the physio came and looked at him twice – for the last 15 overs or so of the chase, remained unbeaten in the end on a 121-ball 131.
Together with Shafique – who himself recorded the highest score by a Pakistan debutant at a World Cup with his 113 off 103 – he had put together a third-wicket stand worth 176 off just 156 deliveries.
It was a stand that would break the spine of the chase, though even then it might not have been enough had Rizwan himself not valiantly stuck around till the end. He would put on a further 95 off 68 with Saud Shakeel, and then 37 off 23 with Iftikhar Ahmed, as Pakistan eventually cantered home to a win that will provide them an immense confidence boost ahead of Saturday’s massive clash against India.
As for Sri Lanka, it’s two defeats in as many games, and after conceding over 750 runs across two matches there will be growing concerns over their bowlers’ abilities in handling such batter-friendly tracks.
Despite having Maheesh Theekshana back in the side, Sri Lanka looked bereft of ideas on how to pick up wickets through the middle overs, or even indeed how to stifle the scoring. Theekshana, Dunith Wellalage and Dilshan Madushanka, who were the most economical of the lot, went for 59, 62 and 60 each, while Matheesha Pathirana once more proved expensive being taken for 90 in nine overs.
Pakistan were also clever in ensuring they capitalised on Sri Lanka’s need to fulfil their fifth bowler quota. While Dasun Shanaka went for just 28 in his five overs, Dhananjaya de Silva was taken for 36 in four and Charith Asalanka 10 in his solitary over.
Pakistan though will be pleased at the manner in which the chase was accomplished. They were circumspect in the first 10 overs, with Sri Lanka having picked up two wickets, and kept the score to just 48. However, with the knowledge they had power hitters such as Shadab Khan, Iftikhar and Mohammed Nawaz lower down the order, both Shafique and Rizwan were content to play themselves in.
Shafique’s control percentage of 91% told a story, as he rarely gave the Sri Lankan bowlers a sniff, pouncing on anything short and unafraid to use his feet when necessary. It would take an absolute scorcher at backward point by substitute Dushan Hemantha, in for Kusal Mendis who was off the field with severe cramps, to get rid of him.
Fortunately for Pakistan though, they had a warrior in Rizwan at the other end to ensure the chase would be completed without hiccups.
Sri Lanka though will rue a missed opportunity to put the game to bed with the bat, with Shanaka admitting after the game that they were probably 30 runs short. Indeed, having won the toss and elected to bat first, for much of the Sri Lankan innings this seemed like the batting performance that Sri Lanka had long threatened to put together.
Against both Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the warm-ups they had thrown away promising starts, while against South Africa they had provided glimpses of what their batting line-up was capable of. The next step though was putting it altogether, and for large parts of their innings, it looked Sri Lanka would finally do just that.
While Sri Lanka’s struggles at the death and even through the middle are well documented – they’ve only struck 12 scores above 300 since the end of the 2019 World Cup – but in Hyderabad they batted like a side that had done this a hundred times before.
Across their 50 overs, scarcely did the scoring rate drop below seven an over – for periods even touching 7.5. Much of that was down to Mendis, who carried on from where he had left off against South Africa – well not exactly, he struck at only 158.44 this time out – as he almost single-handedly swamped an unusually blunt Pakistan attack.
Across his time at the crease, scarcely an over went by without a boundary. In fact, from the point he arrived midway through the second over, and until his dismissal in the 29th, only six overs went without at least a boundary being scored.
Of the bowlers, only Iftikhar Ahmed managed any kind of success against Mendis, going for six runs in eight deliveries, but Mendis struck at above 140 against all five of the other bowlers utilised.
Alongside him, Samarawickrama was carrying along like he has for much of the year since breaking into the Sri Lankan side. He nudged around ones and twos, used his feet to the spinners – an inside-out drive off Nawaz for six, particularly standing out in the memory – and worked the gaps expertly to find boundaries when needed.
Samarawickrama and Mendis together put up 111 off just 69 deliveries, the second consecutive century stand of the innings following Mendis’ 102 with Pathum Nissanka. When Mendis fell, with the score on 218 with just 29 overs bowled, Sri Lanka would have been eyeing 350 at the very least, but once more those plans would go awry.
Charith Asalanka, who had kept Sri Lanka in the game against South Africa, nicked one through just eight balls later. This was then followed by a five-over period in which just 18 runs were scored which stifled their momentum; overs 30-40 would bring 54 runs in total.
But where Pakistan would do the real damage was in the final 10, where Sri Lanka managed just 61 runs, including the last three overs which went for just 13.
It’s a credit to the efficiency at which Samarawickrama and Mendis had batted throughout those middle overs that they still got to 344 – their highest against a Full Member nation since 2020 – but those are the margins at play here, something Sri Lanka will have to address swiftly if they are to keep their already slim semi-final hopes alive.