Dilshan's quality keeps Sri Lanka soaring

Sri Lanka 150/7 Pakistan 131/9
Click to follow
The Independent Online

There is no stopping Sri Lanka. Having knocked out Australia and beaten West Indies to finish top of their World Twenty20 group, they kept up the good work at Lord's yesterday – shrugging off a batting stutter to put Pakistan in their place with a victory that was comfortable enough in the end.

While South Africa and India started this tournament as many people's joint favourites, Sri Lanka are gaining supporters. Now they are off and running in the Super Eights and a win against Ireland tomorrow should see them safely into the semi-finals.

The only disappointment for Kumar Sangakkara was that his team had to wait until deep into Pakistan's innings to be sure of success after totalling an ultimately disappointing 150 for seven. At one stage, they looked set to power towards 200 but came unstuck against a trio of spinners. "I wouldn't say it was a complete performance but I'm very pleased with the result and delighted with the way our guys bowled and fielded," said the captain.

"We probably should have got to 175 and that would have given us a more comfortable win. We needed a few more partnerships in the middle."

Sri Lanka seem to have everything a team needs to triumph at Twenty20 – a perfect opening partnership in Tillakaratne Dilshan and Sanath Jayasuriya, enough batting down the order, a couple of mystery spinners called Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis and a brilliant fast bowler by the name of Lasith Malinga.

This time, though, the biggest contribution to their cause came from the opposition. Opening bowler Sohail Tanvir had a nightmare at the start, needing 20 deliveries to complete two overs that were littered with wides and no-balls and cost him 29 runs. The only real danger to Dilshan and Jayasuriya was they would lose concentration and miss a rare straight one.

Sri Lanka's fans need not have worried. Dilshan, especially, looked in wonderful touch, producing two of his amazing, scoop-over-the-keeper shots against the pace of Mohammad Aamer and Umer Gul. But, all of a sudden, life became much more difficult once spinners Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Malik entered the attack – so much so that an opening stand of 81 in nine overs failed to develop into something spectacular.

Dilshan just missed out on a third consecutive half-century, Afridi struck twice in six balls to remove both openers and boundaries dried up to such an extent that Sri Lanka had to scrap their way to respectability. So game on? Well, it might have been if Pakistan had not started almost as badly with the bat as they had done with the ball.

Angelo Mathews bowled Salman Butt through the gate, Malinga fooled Malik with a slower delivery and the reply slipped to 35 for three when Kamran Akmal was run out.

For once, Murali and Mendis came as a bit of light relief. But, having reached 50, captain Younis Khan was sixth out, top edging a pull against Malinga, and Sri Lanka were home and dry.