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Match Report

Sri Lanka stun Pakistan with unassailable 2-0 lead in the T20I series

Sarfaraz Ahmed was seen pillorying his bowlers when they were getting hammered all over the park for boundaries. It was another below-par performance from Pakistan, who were outsmarted and outgunned in every department of the game by the supremely talented side from the island nation.

Pakistan's chase just never took off; the abysmal batting continued from the last game as they stuttered and stumbled yet again. The comeback kings, Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad, once again snapped under pressure. The former got a golden duck, and the latter was not able to clear the boundary ropes?—both didn't seem ready to handle international cricket pressure.

Dasun Shanaka played a blinder in the latter half of the innings and got Sri Lanka to what proved to be an impregnable total of 182. However, the foundation was laid by Bhanuka Rajapaksa who showed his range and power-hitting in no uncertain terms. He knocked six sixes and four boundaries in his belligerent knock of 77 off 48 balls.

Pakistan struggled against the spin which comes as a surprise because subcontinent players are brought up on spinning wickets and Shehzad, Akmal, and Sarfaraz were seen struggling against Wanindu Hasaranga's sharp legbreaks as the batsmen failed to up the ante under mounting pressure.

It seemed like the tag of the number one ranked side burdened them, and they carried the baggage from the last upset defeat.

Nuwan Pradeep was the pick of the pacers from both sides as he nailed his slower balls and yorkers to perfection. He got four prized scalps, including Babar Azam's wicket who ironically failed for the second time in a row. The number one ranked batsman likes pace and is a great timer of the ball, but he wasn't offered much pace today to work with and was seen missing a flick over midwicket; beaten by the guile and cunning change of pace from Pradeep.

The concerns around Asif Ali continue to linger on as he still hasn't evolved as a consistent basher of the ball. He was missing rank full tosses and couldn't hit a single six in his innings—the skill that brought him to the fore in the first place.

The visitors delivered a clinical performance once again and looked formidable in all facets of the game as Hasaranga's three wickets in an over took the wind out of Pakistan's sails. There was a ray of hope when Imad Wasim got set and was timing the ball nicely, but him not getting support from the other end meant it was always going to be tough catching up with the asking rate that went beyond 13 in the last five overs. His brisk 47 off 29 balls was the rare upside for the hosts in today's match.

In a post-match press conference, chief selector and the head coach of Pakistan team, Misbah-ul-Haq, stressed on the importance of hitting the yorkers right, something which was missing in Pakistan's bowling.

"There is a lot of work to be done at death bowling. Sri Lanka nailed their yorkers perfectly, which was missing in our case. We need to bowl the yorkers and use our variations.

Misbah also backed the under-fire duo of Shehzad and Akmal, who were recalled to the side on some impressive performances in domestic cricket as well as Pakistan Super League. Both batsmen have struggled so far in the series with Akmal bagging a golden duck in both his innings.

"Both these batsmen had been performing consistently at the domestic circuit and over the last few Pakistan Super League (PSL) seasons. I think players deserve a fair chance and in the realm of team building, we need to do some experimentation."

Pakistan's inability to pick up wickets in the middle overs is a worrying sign as well and that role was carried out by Shadab Khan, who is clearly struggling to put the ball on a good length on consistent basis.

"He is a bit under pressure," admitted Misbah. "But we are trying to give him confidence, and he has been an outstanding bowler for us over the years, so we will work with him to bring the best out of him."

Misbah also took a dig at some of the reporters in his presser, who had suggested to induct some young blood into the side given their opposition were a 'second XI' side.

"Those who were saying that Pakistan should induct young players against the Sri Lankan B team should realize that there is no second-string team in international cricket," he concluded.

Both teams will play the final T20I in Lahore on October 9.