Colombo, Feb 26 (PTI) Pakistan held their nerves to pulloff a stunning 11-run victory over title aspirants Sri Lankain a nail-biting group A World Cup league match here today.
The Pakistani first posted a competitive 277 for seven,relying on half centuries by Misbah-ul-Haq (unbeaten 83) andYounis Khan (72) and then restricted Sri Lanka to 266 for nineto virtually assure themselves a quarter-final berth.
Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi sparkled with the ball ashe took four wickets and became only the third bowler from hiscountry to take 300 or more ODI wickets.
The Pakistanis, though, were found wanting in the groundfielding as they missed stumping chances, dropped catches andmissed run outs.
Chamara Silva (57) played a gritty knock and shared a73-run stand for the fifth-wicket with his skipper Sangakkara(49) in Lanka''s fight but that only reduced the defeat margin.
Afridi (4/34) bowled extremely well in the middle oversand yet again turned the tide in his side''s favour as he tookcrucial wickets of Tillakaratne Dilshan (41), Sangakkara (49)Thilan Samaraweera (1) and Angelo Mathews (18).
Paceman Shoaib Akhtar (2/42) contributed in the win byscalping two Lankan batsmen.
Sri Lanka did not make a flying start with Pakistan fastbowlers Akhtar and Abdul Razzak being brilliant with the newball as they hardly gave scoring opportunities.
But the hosts openers -- Dilshan and Upul Tharanga (33)-- did well to bat together for about 15 overs, raising 76runs to lay a good foundation for the chase.
Sri Lanka though let go the advantage by losing well-setTharanga, who drove one off Mohammed Hafeez uppishly andAfridi took a smart low catch at mid-off.
Afridi gave Sri Lanka the second shock when he bowleddangerous Dilshan and when the Pakistan skipper called Akhtarfor his second spell, the speedster responded by knocking offthe middle stump of Mahela Jayawardene (2).
The home fans and the host dressing room had hardlyrecovered from the blow that Afridi combined with stumperKamran Akmal to script the fall of Samaraweera (1).
Afridi bowled a flighted one, beat Samaraweera''s forward-defence and Akmal took the bails off in a flash.
Sangakkara along with Silva stopped the freefall ofwickets but both the batsmen were lucky as Pakistan fieldersmade a mess of the chances offered by the Lankan players.
The Lankan skipper survived two stumping chances offspinner Abdur Rehman, with Kamran being the villain.
Rehman himself proved a disaster as a fielder by droppingSilva off Umar Gul in the 36th over in what was a simplechance on mis-timed pull.
Sangakkara finally ran out of luck as an ambitious shotoff Afridi landed in the hands of Ahmed Shezad at long-on,giving the Pakistan skipper his 300th One-day wicket.
Mathews and Silva took the hosts near the target and itall boiled to the last over in which the Sri Lanka required 18runs. But Umar Gul ensured Pakistan come out triumphant. MorePTI RC AT MRM