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Thread: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, only Twenty20, Abu Dhabi | Pakistan win by 5 wkts

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    Thumbs up Pakistan v Sri Lanka, only Twenty20, Abu Dhabi | Pakistan win by 5 wkts

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    Twenty20 might have become the origin of everything that is bad (or good, depending on your affiliation) about cricket, but the international Twenty20 game has had almost no role to play in that development. Consider these stats: we have had 32 Tests so far in 2011 and 139 ODIs - a number inflated by the World Cup, no doubt - but only a piddling 19 Twenty20 internationals. Comparing that number against the 74 fixtures IPL 2011 alone had, gives you even better perspective of the space T20Is occupy.T20Is have been reduced to irrelevant one- or two-match series, shoe-horned at either end of long bilateral tours. The stakes are so low that teams don't take these games seriously. A part of the reason is the quirky scheduling of the World Twenty20. Initially planned as a biannual event that would lend context to the format, it made three London-bus appearances in four years, before hibernating out of our conscious. The next edition will be held in September 2012 in Sri Lanka, and teams will want to start drawing up plans now, after a year dominated by the World Cup and a clutch of marquee Test series.
    Sri Lanka haven't looked like winning anything in the longer formats since the World Cup. Indeed, they have lost all their Test and ODI series since then. However, in that same period, they have been unbeaten in Twenty20s, and are in the middle of an impressive sequence of five successive wins. They will be desperate to extend that run and build momentum in the lead-up to the World Twenty at home, even as they seek succour from their reversals in the other formats.
    Pakistan have always impressed in Twenty20s, a six-match losing run last year notwithstanding. They have won the World Twenty20 once, and made the final and the semi-finals on the other two occasions. Their fortunes next year will hinge on how the team responds to Misbah-ul-Haq's leadership. His safety-first method has been an unequivocal success in the Test and ODI versions, but it remains to be seen whether it will work in Twenty20s.

    Form guide

    Pakistan: WWLWL (most recent first)
    Sri Lanka: WWWWW

    Quotes

    "It will be a new game on Friday and a change of format, so I hope the players lift themselves."
    Tillakaratne Dilshan hopes a change in format will lead to a change in fortunes

    "He still has a lot of cricket in him and just needs one innings to get back in touch."
    Misbah-ul-Haq backs Shoaib Malik to come good soon
    It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life so interesting. . .

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    Misbah, Cheema take Pakistan to five-wicket win




    Pakistan 142 for 5 (Misbah 48*, Shafiq 33) beat Sri Lanka 141 (Chandimal 56, Cheema 4-30) by five wickets

    There was no respite for Sri Lanka. In one of the more closely-fought encounters on this tour, it was Pakistan who prevailed by five wickets after their opponents promised to deliver better, only to falter and give it away. First, with their batting, when they began aggressively and scored at around nine an over in the first ten overs before slowing down considerably and eventually capitulating in the second half. And then it happened with the ball, their spinners putting them in control through tight spells and wickets, not knowing Dilhara Fernando and some fielders would fail to hold their nerve at the death.

    Misbah-ul-Haq stood tall for Pakistan, doing what Dinesh Chandimal, who made an enterprising half-century, failed to achieve after guiding the innings - seeing his team through to the end and finishing on a high. Pakistan's seamers did what their counterparts failed to do - Aizaz Cheema and Umar Gul cleaned up the innings, taking five wickets in the last two overs, to restrict the visitors to a chaseable score; on the other hand, Fernando doled out length deliveries that brought down the required-rate considerably.
    Ajantha Mendis, returning from injury, and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan restrained Pakistan in their pursuit of 142 after Imran Farhat began brightly. He inaugurated the innings with three crisp boundaries off the first over of the innings but brought on to bowl in the sixth over, inside the Powerplay, Mendis struck, removing Farhat, who holed out. Umar Akmal's first-ball duck was crucial in reducing the tempo of the innings further when he adventurously made room to Dilshan and was bowled playing inside the line.
    The next four overs yielded just 19, but at one end was Misbah, building up for a flourish at a later stage. He warmed up by slogging a six off Dilruwan Perera over midwicket and triggered the turn in the tide when 43 were needed off four overs, Afridi just having joined him at the other end.
    Fernando dropped slightly short to be pulled to the square boundary, and then overcompensated by bowling too full; Misbah unleashed a cracking drive through cover and whipped a full toss behind square to make it 14 in the over. Mendis still had an over left, but Dilshan gave Fernando another go, much to, presumably, his regret. Two length balls followed in the penultimate over - Cheema picked up three wickets at the same stage in the Sri Lankan innings while aiming at the blockhole - and Afridi dispatched them over long-on and deep midwicket. Though he fell off the final delivery, he'd brought down the equation to nine off the last over.
    The win was hastened by a botched-up fielding attempt. The first ball of the final over, Misbah drove Malinga to long-off. What should have been a single became two as the fielder took time to get to the ball, and if that wasn't enough, his wayward throw, missed first by Kumar Sangakkara and then by the short fine leg backing up awkwardly, resulted in six runs in total. With two needed off four, Shoaib Malik edged one wide of third man to seal victory with Sri Lanka still appealing desperately, thinking it was a deflection off the pad.
    Though Cheema was the star towards the end of Sri Lanka's innings, it was Saeed Ajmal who started the slide. Ajmal's variations have played a major role in his rise to the No.1 spot in the ODI rankings and with expert changes in flight, pace and his mastery over the doosra, he choked Sri Lanka. In a potentially risky move, he was brought on inside the Powerplay, like Mendis, and was launched over mid-off not long after. The next ball, though, was generously flighted and Dilshan was tempted into the slog-sweep which he top-edged to offer a comfortable catch. Ajmal was particularly effective round the wicket, the batsmen often caught confused about the direction of his turn.
    Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez slowed down the innings further, making boundaries a rare commodity. Sangakkara, Sri Lanka's best batsman, chipped a catch back to Hafeez while Angelo Mathews and Chamara Silva, from whom the visitors would have expected a surge at the death, were run out. Racing to 91 for 3 at the end of 10 overs, Sri Lanka only managed 50 in the next ten. Cheema added the finishing touches by making up for his troubles early on. In the penultimate over, he trapped Chandimal in front, had Thisara Perera caught behind and bowled Malinga. Sri Lanka fell way short of the target they were on track for. They met with the same fate with the ball.
    It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life so interesting. . .

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