Pakistan allrounder Shahid Afridi top scored with 75 and then took 5-35 to earn his team a dramatic 26-run win against Sri Lanka in their fourth one-day international today, sealing victory in the five-match series.
Afridi's mature strike from 65 balls lifted Pakistan from the peril of 120-7 to a competitive 200 all out off 49.3 overs at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. Fast bowler Dilhara Fernando led Sri Lanka with 3-26 while leg-spinners Jeevan Mendis (2-40) and Seekkuge Prasanna (2-55) also contributed.
Sri Lanka seemed on target with the bat when Kumar Sangakkara (58) and Mahela Jayawardene (55) shared a stand of 102 for the fourth wicket.
But Afridi removed both and Sri Lanka tumbled from 155-3 to 174 all out, losing its last seven wickets for 19 runs in 46 balls, as Pakistan took an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series. The 31-year-old Afridi, in his 329th one-dayer, ripped apart the tail to bring a swift end to the match and spark wild celebrations among the 10,000-strong, mainly Pakistani crowd. Sri Lanka's pursuit had been stuttering at 53-3 in the 13th over following early strikes from pacer Aizaz Cheema (2-48) and Mohammad Hafeez (1-23).
Cheema removed both openers, Upul Tharanga (16) edging to first slip and captain Tillakaratne Dilshan (11) nicking through to wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed. Hafeez added the scalp of Dinesh Chandimal, who deflected a sweep onto his stumps. But Sri Lanka's most experienced pair slowly turned the match around in an assured partnership that silenced the crowd. Sangakkara, who moved above Australia's Adam Gilchrist to become the 11th highest run-scorer in one-dayers during his knock, was first to fifty, off 95 balls.
When Jayawardene followed him to his half century, the target as within sight with 46 runs needed from 12.2 overs with seven wickets still in hand. But Afridi transformed the match in swift fashion. He provided the key breakthrough when Sangakkara, who hit six fours, was beaten and bowled by a leg-break. Next over, Angelo Mathews fell for a duck as he feathered a leg side catch to the wicket-keeper off Saeed Ajmal at 156-5. Afridi claimed Mendis cheaply and then landed the killer blow when Jayawardene lofted low to extra cover at 168-7. Sri Lanka's lower order plunged dramatically as Seekkuge Prasanna chipped a return catch to Afridi. Lasith Malinga soon fell lbw to Ajmal before Afridi sealed the victory with his fifth wicket as Thisara Perera holed out to long-on.