Sharjah: Mohammad Hafeez returned to his one-day batting form with a gritty 122 off 129 balls as Pakistan pulled off a sensational 11-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first one-day international on Wednesday. Hafeez's seventh ODI century with seven fours and four sixes was well assisted by half centuries from Sohaib Maqsood (73) and debutant opener Sharjeel Khan (61) in what appeared to be a strong Pakistan total of 322-5.
Sri Lanka were tottering at 221-7 but Seekkuge Prasanna (42) and Sachithra Senanayake (42) smashed 87 runs off 43 balls before Pakistan held their nerves and bowled the opposition out for 311 in 49.4 overs. "It was a much needed innings from Hafeez, but we need to improve on the bowling and fielding, too many lapses," Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said.
Sri Lanka required 27 runs off the last two overs and Senanayake collected 12 off leftarm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir's first four deliveries but was caught in the deep while attempting a big shot off the next ball. With 14 needed off the last over, Lasith Malinga was run out of the first ball before last man Suranga Lakmal scampered through for a single.
However, Junaid Khan (3-44) wrapped up the match as Prasanna offered an easy catch at long off while looking for a much needed boundary. "We witnessed a great match, especially the stand between Seekkuge and Sachitra, very pleasing to see how they fought," Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said. "I thought it was still a pleasing performance so no need to panic."
Hafeez, who had been criticized after scoring just 93 runs against South Africa in the last six ODIs, regained his lost form after Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first. Hafeez set the tempo for a big total by sharing 83 runs with opener Khan (61) for the second wicket then putting on better than a run-a-ball 140 runs with Maqsood.
Shahid Afridi hammered 34 off 11 balls as Pakistan added 64 runs in the last six overs to post its best ODI total in 2013. Left-hander Khan, who impressed in the drawn Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka, showed no signs of nerves in his debut ODI when he lofted Malinga (0-59) over midwicket for a six and took two more boundaries in the fast bowler's second over.
On a perfect batting strip of Sharjah Cricket Stadium, the Sri Lanka bowlers could not contain the flow of runs before Khan was caught on the edge of the long-on boundary and departed after hitting six fours and three sixes in his run-a-ball knock. Maqsood kept on pressing the accelerator by hitting four sixes and two fours in his 68-ball innings as Hafeez raised his seventh ODI century off 111 balls when he lofted Lakmal (2-73) over midwicket for a six.
Maqsood also looked set for his maiden century before he was run out in a mix-up with Hafeez, who refused to go for the second run. Afridi took charge and hit three sixes - one of which went out of the stadium over covers off Thisara Perera - and also smashed two fours after he was promoted ahead of captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal.
Hafeez was finally dismissed in the last over when he offered a tired looking catch to Dinesh Chandimal at midwicket to give Lakmal his second wicket. Offspinner Hafeez bowled steadily with the new ball and after taking a brilliant catch in the deep to dismiss Tillakaratne Dilshan (30) he had top scorer Kusal Perera (64) leg before wicket.
Experienced Kumar Sangakkara (23) was well caught by wicketkeeper Umar Akmal off Afridi's wide delivery while Chandimal (46) and Mathews (31) also departed in quick succession before Prasanna and Senanayake couldn't pull off Sri Lanka's best ever run-chase.