Sharjah, Oct 20 (TNS): Pakistan stretched their winning streak to eight matches in one-day internationals, and piled on more misery for Sri Lanka in the process, as they won by seven wickets in Sharjah.
The victory, secured with 11 overs to spare, gave Pakistan a 4-0 lead in the series with just Sunday’s final match still to play.
Given they were on an 10-match losing run of their own, Sri Lanka’s spirits were probably low enough, even before making the trip north-east up the coast from Abu Dhabi for the final phase of this series.
Sri Lanka have an abysmal record in Sharjah. Coming into this game, they had lost five successive matches at the UAE’s oldest cricket venue, and are without a win there since 2002.
Quite where their Sharjah blindspot stems from, it is difficult to know. Some of their batting as they slumped to 173 all out in 43.4 overs was entirely irrational.
Upul Tharanga, the beleaguered captain, started it. Maybe his mind is fried, given the shocking run Sri Lanka have been on under his leadership.
There could be few other explanations for the way he played completely around the fifth ball he faced and he was bowled for a duck.
It gave Usman Khan Shinwari a wicket with just his second ball in international cricket. The papare band in the stands at square leg had only just started playing a tune to lift their side, and yet Sri Lanka were already on the slide.
Tharanga’s surrender set the tone. Later, Sadeera Samarawickrama was bowled, while aiming the kind of nothing-shot at Imad Wasim that sort of suggested he does not watch much cricket.
What made it all the more disappointing was the contrast between how Samarawickrama had started his ODI career against his Test one.
In Dubai, in the long format a little over a week ago, he had played the sort of sparkling cameo that gets fans thinking they might be seeing the next big thing starting out. The way he played on his first appearance in blue, though, made you wonder who had invited him along at all.
Seekkuge Prasanna was similarly poor. He played a rash slog-sweep at the first ball from legspinner Shadab Khan. He missed the ball by a distance, and was bowled. Beaten so convincingly be a fellow legspinner, it was a shambles.
Shadab had two in two straight away to leave Sri Lanka at 99 for seven.
Again, it was Hasan Ali who ended with the best figures for Pakistan. He ended with three for 37, the seventh time in eight matches he has taken three or more wickets in an innings.
He has now taken 30 wickets in his past 11 matches. A fine record, for sure, but it is a marker of just how well Pakistan are performing at the moment that he might not even be the stand out performer in the XI at present.
It has been two matches since Babar Azam last scored an ODI century for Pakistan. His uncharacteristic form slump since back-to-back tons in the opening two games of this series might not actually be his fault.
Sri Lanka haven’t scored enough runs for him to have time to reach three figures chasing. In Abu Dhabi he made 30, before departing when the game was long since won.
This time, in Sharjah, he marshalled the run-chase, making 69 not out and sharing in an unbroken 119-run alliance with Shoaib Malik, who matched Babar’s total.
To say they did not break sweat in chasing the win would be stretching the point. Pakistan were 58 for three when they were united at the crease. And the weather conditions were still muggy.
Sri Lanka’s bowlers posed them few problems, however, and Malik settled it in convincing fashion, hitting a four then six in successive deliveries.