Dubai: A thoughtfully composed 124 from Ahmed Shehzad and the almost-mandatory Misbah-ul-Haq half-century led Pakistan to a commanding 284 for 4 in their 50 overs. Care, responsibility and calculation ruled Pakistan’s effort, and they were allowed to trudge on largely unchallenged by a Sri Lanka attack that has wanted for venom so far in the tour.
The visitors will perhaps be encouraged that this score is not so daunting a challenge as the one they were posed with in the first ODI, and also by the prospect of dew setting in to hamper bowlers late in the match, as it did in Dubai during the Twenty20s.
Sri Lanka bowled better lines to induce caution from Pakistan early in the innings, but Shehzad’s measured approach appeared to have been determined before the match had even begun. Eschewing ambitious strokes, his first objective was to establish steady beat of singles and twos. Even on occasions when Sri Lanka strayed, gaps, not boundaries, were Shehzad’s priority.
Nuwan Kulasekara’s return to the XI helped Sri Lanka establish some control over the early exchanges, as did the belligerent Sharjeel Khan’s departure in the second over. But too few deliveries throughout the innings seemed likely produce wickets for Sri Lanka.
Unhurried and unruffled for most of his stay, the only insecure moment in Shehzad’s progress arrived in the 17th over when Thisara Perera dived hard to his left at short-fine-leg to collect an aerial legside flick that was deemed to be too doubtful to give out, by the third umpire. Perera would pay for that dive, and another later in the over by picking up a side-strain that forced him to quit the field in the middle of his fourth over. Angelo Mathews also picked up a niggle that stopped him bowling, but returned to the field to captain, after some time.
Mohammad Hafeez had played a similar innings in the first match and though he endeavoured to rehash that blueprint in Shehzad’s company here, an injudicious attempt for a second run brought his innings to a close at 32 off 52.
Shehzad had struck only three fours in his first 50 runs, which were made in 75 deliveries, and the team itself only hit seven boundaries for the first half of their innings. But when the balls had worn on a pitch that held no terrors, the scoring rate managed a steady incline, with little added risk to the batsmen. Singles and twos remained the preferred form of advancement during the middle overs, as Sachithra Senanayake and Seekkuge Prasanna sent down 20 overs of cheap, but unthreatening spin. Shehzad and still Misbah managed 51 between the 30th and 40th overs though, setting the team up nicely for a final charge, at 192 for 3.
The pair signaled the start of the final salvo with a four and a six off Malinga’s 43rd over, and though that did not immediately usher in a volley of boundaries, the scoring kicked up another level, with plenty of runs hit into the outfield. Afridi’s arrival at the crease brought the two most expensive overs of the innings: 16 runs were hit in the 47th over and 15 in the 50th. With two sixes and a four in his 15-ball 30, Afridi’s impressive tour with the bat continued.
Misbah had reached his 14th ODI half-century of the year in Afridi’s company. The milestone came in 53 balls, and he finished unbeaten on 59 off 61.
50 overs Pakistan 284 for 4 (Shehzad 124, Misbah 59*) v Sri Lanka