Champions Trophy: Pakistan beats Sri Lanka, gets into semi-finals
Pakistan overcame a familiar attack of batting nerves to beat Sri Lanka by three wickets on Monday (June 12) in a see-saw Group B game at Sophia Gardens to set up a Champions Trophy semi-final with hosts England back in Cardiff on Wednesday (June 14).
The other semi-final will pit Group B winners India against Group A runners-up Bangladesh at Edgbaston on Thursday (June 15). Pakistan looked to have thrown away their victory chance at several points with an astonishing collapse from 74-0 to 162-7.
But captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who had already distinguished himself with two fine catches behind the stumps, steadied the innings, steering them home to 237-7 in the 45th over with a match-winning innings of 61 from 79 balls.
At the other end, Mohammad Amir took singles to rotate the strike as he reached an unbeaten 28. Their 75-run partnership was an eighth-wicket record for the Champions Trophy.
Even the captain suffered the occasional rush of blood, however, and was twice dropped on 38 and 40 by Thisara Perera and substitute fielder Seekkuge Prasanna off a disconsolate Lasith Malinga. The same bowler had also seen opener Azhar Ali spilled by Asela Gunaratne in his first over.
Sri Lanka benefited from excellent bowling from Malinga (1-52) and Nuwan Pradeep (3-60) to ensure a regular procession of batsmen from the wicket.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had suffered a collapse of their own as superb left-arm pace bowling from Amir and Junaid Khan reduced Sri Lanka from 161-3 to 167-7 in four devastating overs.
Amir removed danger man Angelo Mathews for 39 and opener Niroshan Dickwella, whose 73 had provided the base to Sri Lanka’s innings.
Junaid (3-40) added to the mid-order carnage as Sri Lanka, who had begun breezily to reach 82-1 from 14 overs, posted a disappointing 236 all out, with Hasan Ali also weighing in with 3-43.
Pakistan’s semi-final will be their first meeting with England in a 50-over tournament since 2003 and their first knockout clash since they won the 1992 World Cup final.