COLOMBO: Promoted up the order, Sarfraz Ahmed scored a brilliant 74-ball 77 to power Pakistan to a competitive total of 316 in the third one-day international against Sri Lanka at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium in Colombo.
It was not Sarfraz all alone, but a combined effort by the top order to stage a fighting total.
Opening Pakistan’s innings, swashbuckling Ahmed Shehzad (44) and captain Azhar Ali (49) set up the initial script for the rest of the batters to follow.
Recently suspended from bowling for 12 months, Mohammad Hafeez came out all guns blazing and scored 54 runs, which also included four boundaries.
When Hafeez fell victim to Pathirana, experienced Shoaib Malik took it upon himself to take Pakistan’s charge in the final overs.
Malik, with his unbeaten 42 off 29 balls, provided just the platform required for young Mohammad Rizwan to lead the final push.
Rizwan played a fiery unbeaten knock of 35 off just 22 deliveries.
Azhar Ali has won the toss and decided to bat first. Pakistan made one change to their playing XI from the second one-dayer. Middle order batsman Babar Azam was replaced by 26-year-old Imad Wasim.
On the other hand, Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews decided not to disturb his team’s winning combination.
For the Islanders, only Lasith Malinga and Sachith Pathirana managed to claim a wicket each. Both Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed were sent back to the pavilion courtesy some exceptional Sri Lankan fielding.
During the second ODI, it was Dinesh Chandimal, who with his unbeaten 48, guided Sri Lanka to a series-levelling two-wicket victory over Pakistan in Pallekele on Wednesday.
Chasing Pakistan’s challenging 287/8, the hosts recovered from 159/5 to post 288/8 with 11 balls to spare in a tense finish to the day-night match.
Pakistan had won the first match in Dambulla by six wickets last Saturday (July 11) to take the lead in the five-match series.