A raucous home crowd came at the Gaddafi Stadium to root for cricket's homecoming and it would have been a cherry on the top for them to witness Pakistan dominate in the shortest format — given that they are the top-ranked side but today it was Sri Lanka's day as everything they touched turned to gold.
The 64-run drubbing handed to Pakistan is Sri Lanka's biggest win over the hosts in terms of runs in T20I cricket. They were undoubtedly the better side today against their strong opponent. Sri Lanka didn't let the dew factor hinder their bowling performance and bowled immaculate lines.
Earlier when Sarfaraz Ahmed put Sri Lanka to bat first after winning the toss, coruscating strokeplay from Danushka Gunathilaka was observed as he picked from where he left the ODI series.
The contributions from the lower middle order helped Sri Lanka post a fighting total of 165 on a slow wicket. Then the visitors followed it up with a very disciplined well-knit bowling display and Pakistan just couldn't get going right from the beginning in their chase and lost wickets at regular intervals.
Such was the ordeal that Pakistan batters didn't strike a single six in their chase. On the other hand, Sri Lanka's exuberant bunch of players stuck to their guns and executed their plans perfectly.
Nuwan Pradeep struck early and got the big fish, Babar Azam, out of the equation. Bhanuka Rajapaksa took a stunning catch to send the number one ranked batsman back in the hut.
Pradeep made early inroads as well by getting Umar Akmal, the enigma, pinned in front LBW and it wasn't a happy comeback for him. Isuru Udana got rid of Ahmed Shehzad and then ripped through the tail-enders with very economical figures of 3/11 in a mere 2.4 overs. Lakshan Sandakan and his spin department partners spun a web around Pakistan's lower middle order and didn't allow them to tee off.
One thing is for sure that there is a truckload of criticism coming Sarfaraz's way after his struggling meandering sort of innings of 24 from 30 balls. He could have done a favor to himself by playing in his natural free-flowing style but the burden of captaincy and a poor run of late got better of him.
He had a brainfreeze on Wanindu Hasaranga's tempter of a delivery as he was seen dancing down the track in an attempt to muscle a straighter one over the midwicket but he failed to connect.
Earlier in the evening, Gunathilaka was using his bat like a swinging door in the Powerplay and his quickfire fifty helped his side get off to a flying start. The wickets stymied the momentum in the middle of the innings but Avishka Fernando and Rajapaksa kept finding boundaries every now and then.
Mohammad Amir speared his off cutters to perfection and bowled smartly at the death. He put the lid on the target and was complemented well by the fiery speedster Mohammad Hasnain who got a hat-trick in his comeback spell.
The onus was on Pakistan to step up to the occasion as they are playing with all their regular players whereas Sri Lanka had no pressure as they came primarily with young guns. The hosts have some time to regroup, restrategize and make amends before the second T20I on Monday.