- Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Pallekele
Seamers set up easy win for Pakistan
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It turned out to be a good toss to lose for Pakistan, as their seamers, led by Umar Gul, set up a comfortable six-wicket win by keeping Sri Lanka to a paltry 135. The ball nipped around, skidded, turned and bounced alarmingly and tested the technique and patience of the batsmen, with the cloudy conditions giving the bowlers an overwhelming advantage. Three rain interruptions in the first innings did little to help Sri Lanka's cause. They struggled to build momentum and sizeable partnerships, and following a lengthy rain interruption, the overs were culled to 42, leaving very few overs in the end to accelerate.
Pakistan too were tested by a probing opening spell by Sri Lanka's seamers, but they could afford to take their time and grind it out. Subcontinent pitches aren't known to produce too many low-scoring games, and based on the evidence so far in the three games on tour, watching the bowlers have a say has been compelling.
Runs off the bat were at a premium as Sri Lanka's top four failed to reach double-digits and their combined contribution was outscored by extras. It was a struggle, not just to pick the gaps but to put bat on ball. Sohail Tanvir's angle away from the right-hander kept Mahela Jayawardene playing and missing; Gul's bounce off a good length and incutters troubled Tillakaratne Dilshan, who looked like he hadn't yet shrugged off the Twenty20 hangover.
It was a battle of attrition at both ends. Sri Lanka had two of their most experienced accumulators at the crease - Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara - but the seamers found ways to avert a partnership. An indipper from Gul trapped Jayawardene lbw, before Dinesh Chandimal chopped one onto his stumps without using his feet.
The batsmen may have had their wallets nicked when they walked out to bat - they couldn't even buy a run. In the first ten overs, Pakistan didn't concede a run off the bat for 26 consecutive legal deliveries. In that period, the only source of runs was 13 wides. The first boundary off the bat - there were only six in all - came in the 12th over. Any semblance of a recovery was halted when Mohammad Sami nipped out two wickets in successive overs, leaving Sri Lanka five down at the 15th over.
Rain forced interruptions in the 18th over and again after the 24th. What followed after the second interruption were two of the most productive partnerships. Lahiru Thirimanne added 25 with Thisara Perera, and doubled that with Nuwan Kulasekara. It was still a battle for survival, and the frequent interruptions didn't help Sri Lanka's bid to find momentum to accelerate. Following the third rain interval, which stretched to an hour and a quarter, Sri Lanka had only five overs to bat out. Thirimanne slogged and swished at several deliveries and managed to fetch three boundaries, including one off the final ball. Subtracting the wides, Sri Lanka would have been defending a much lesser score.
Sri Lanka managed only six fours in their innings, hitting the first only in the 12th over. Pakistan hit their first four as early as the third ball, when Mohammad Hafeez punched Lasith Malinga past the covers. Malinga soon had Azhar Ali caught off a loose drive, and he continued to create half chances by shaping the ball away from the right-handers. Kulasekara posed questions by getting the ball to cut back in - his stock delivery - and one of those breached Younis Khan's defences, leaving Pakistan at 27 for 2.
The pressure created by that dismissal led to three consecutive maidens. Misbah-ul-Haq halted a run-drought that lasted 25 deliveries with a slash past point for four. While Hafeez gave Pakistan the edge with positive shots, including a lofted off-drive for six, what prevented Pakistan from imploding was Misbah's calm presence.
Pakistan were a batsman short, so it was imperative one senior player pitched a tent through the duration of the innings, which Misbah had all but achieved. It was a pressure-free scenario for Umar Akmal to play his strokes, as Pakistan coasted home to extend their recent domination over Sri Lanka, with their ninth win in 11 games.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo