HAMBANTOTA: Pakistan romped to a series triumph after their convincing victory over Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI but a drop in intensity is unlikely when Azhar Ali’s side takes on Sri Lanka for the fifth and final game on Sunday.
Pakistan, riding on Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad’s batting heroics, went past the target of 257 set by Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI on Wednesday to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews singled out his team’s lackluster bowling for the hosts’ recent woes.
Only three out of the seven bowlers that he used managed to get a breakthrough in that match, with ace pacer Lasith Malinga looking overweight and out of sorts.
“There was no real penetration in our bowling attack,” admitted Mathews, speaking after the 4th ODI.
“Hopefully we can rectify it. We need to play positive cricket and get out of hits hole we have dug ourselves in.”
Sri Lanka’s batting on the other hand, has shown signs it can cope without the legendary Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and barring the third match, most in the line-up have chipped in.
Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera and Tilakaratene Dilshan have all contributed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan have got a lot of things going for it, with the relatively inexperienced Rahat Ali, Anwar Ali and Mohamamd Irfan finding their rhythm and the likes of legspinner Yasir Shah keeping things tight in the middle overs.
Hafeez, banned for bowling for a year for a suspect action, is the highest run-getter of the series so far, having notched up 236 runs at at an average of 59.00 in the four matches.
Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali along with the veteran Shoaib Malik have ensured Pakistan have avoided any embarrassment with the bat so far.
From the qualification point of view for the 2017 Champions Trophy, the series win is crucial for Pakistan, who, with 90.4 rating points in the International Cricket Council’s ranking system, is now two points ahead of West Indies (88.4 points).
This is the first time Pakistan has won a series in Sri Lanka since 2006 and the ODI series will be followed by a two Twenty20 Internationals between the two sides on July 30 and August 1.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Mukhtar Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Immad Wasim, Ehsan Adil.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Ashan Priyanjan, Sachithra Senanayake, Sachith Pathirana.