Dhaka, Mar 15: Pakistan thrashed Sri Lanka by six wickets for a bonus-point victory and moved closer to securing a final spot in the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Thursday.
[Scorecard: Pakistan Vs Sri Lanka, Asia Cup, Mar 15]
It was a fine all-round performance by Pakistan which won them the game with a bonus point. Pakistan scored 189/4 in 39.5 overs after Sri Lanka were bundled out for 188 in 45.4 overs.
Pakistan are on top of the table with 9 points from two games. They have won both matches. India are second with four points from one game. Sri Lanka are winless after two outings. The Islanders have lost five of their last seven games. Bangladesh are also without a win after being defeated by Pakistan in the tournament opener on Sunday.
Technically, Pakistan have not yet secured a spot in the final. The picture will be clear on Friday if India beat Bangladesh then it will be India-Pakistan final.
Only Bangladesh can oust Pakistan from the tournament now. If the hosts win both their league matches with bonus points and if India down Pakistan with a bonus point on Sunday, then it will put India and the hosts in the title clash.
Pakistan are almost assured of a final berth. If they do reach, they will be playing in their first final of Asia Cup since 2000, where they went on to win the title, also in Bangladesh.
Misbah-ul-Haq registered his highest ODI score as Pakistan's captain, remaining unbeaten on 72. He was the key in the run chase after losing three quick wickets. He along with Umar Akmal set up this easy success.
Sri Lanka, with two losses in as many matches, are out of the tournament. They play Bangladesh in the last league game on March 20.
After Pakistan's bowlers kept Sri Lanka to just 188 on a good batting pitch, their batsmen almost gave the advantage away. Fast bowler Aizaz Cheema, who took four wickets, was adjudged the Man-of-the-match.
Pakistan did not have a good start in the chase as they were reduced to 33/3 in 12.5 overs. It was a very slow beginning in a small chase.
The calm captain Misbah and the talented Akmal ensured that there were no more anxious moments for their supporters and their 152-run partnership firmly shut Sri Lanka out of the contest.
Akmal was dismissed for 77 runs when Pakistan needed just four runs to win.
If India beat Bangladesh on Friday, then it will be a India-Pakistan final on March 22. The arch rivals meet on Sunday in the league stage.
Sri Lanka Innings: Sri Lanka bundled out for 188
Pakistan bowlers restricted Sri Lanka to a paltry 188 in 45.4 overs.
Fast bowler Aizaz Cheema took four wickets while offspinner Saeed Ajmal had three wickets while Umar Gul scalped two for Pakistan. In good batting conditions, it was a fine effort from the Pakistan bowlers.
Gul, playing his 103rd ODI, completed 150 wickets in this format when he dismissed Nuwan Kulasekara.
Barring Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Upul Tharanga (57), rest of the batting came a cropper against a disciplined Pakistan attack. Sri Lanka are in a must-win situation and a loss here could knock them out of the tournament with just a one game left against Bangladesh.
Sri Lanka were jolted early as they collapsed to 65/4 in the 15 over. However, Sangakkara and Tharanga joined to rebuild the innings. They were together for 96 runs for the fifth wicket before the collapse started again.
It was Ajmal who triggered the collapse with a couple of doosras. First, he clean bowled Tharanga and deceived Farveez Maharoof. Sangakkara soon followed and the tail did not offer any resistance.
Pakistan batsmen should have any problem in overhauling this small target. A win here could put them into the final, which is slated for March 22.
Pakistan have already won one match, against Bangladesh. Sri Lanka lost to India by 50 runs on Tuesday.
Toss Report: Sri Lanka to bat first
Sri Lanka will bat first after captain Mahela Jayawardene won the toss against Pakistan in the Asia Cup at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Thursday.
Sri Lanka have to win this match to have chances of making the March 22 final. They lost the opener to India by 50 runs.
Lasith Malinga, who had to sit out of the first match against India, is back for the Sri Lankans in place of batsman Chamara Kapugedera.
Pakistan made one change to their line-up which won against Bangladesh. Hammad Azam takes Asad Shafiq's place.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Hammad Azam, Shahid Afridi, Sarfraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema.
Sri Lanka: Mahela Jayawardene (captain), Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Lahiru Thirimanne, Farveez Maharoof, Nuwan Kulasekara, Lasith Malinga, Seekkuge Prasanna, Suranga Lakmal.
Umpires: Steve Davis and Paul Reiffel (Both Australia)
Third Umpire: Sharfuddoula (Bangladesh)
Match Referee: David Boon (Australia)