REUTERS - Shahid Afridi’s scintillating all-round display secured Pakistan a series-clinching 26-run victory against Sri Lanka in a low-scoring fourth one-day international on Sunday.
Afridi struck a defiant 75 to help Pakistan reach a modest 200 on a sluggish track at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium before they folded in 49.3 overs.
The all-rounder then returned to claim five for 35 as Pakistan shot out Sri Lanka for 174 in 45.2 overs to go 3-1 up in the five-match series.
Sri Lanka wobbled early in their chase, losing both the openers Upul Tharanga (16) and Tillakaratne Dilshan (11) to Aizaz Cheema inside eight overs.
Dinesh Chandimal’s (11) exit had them reeling at 53 for three in the 13th over before Kumar Sangakkara (58) and Mahela Jayawardene (55), with more than 650 ODIs between them, put their chase back on track with a 102-run stand.
Just when they appeared to be cruising to victory, Afridi removed both the batsmen to turn the match on its head and went on to register his sixth ODI five-wicket haul to walk away with the man of the match award.
Earlier, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq decided to bat first only to see his team slump to 71 for five in the 24th over.
Change bowler Dilhara Fernando (3-26) removed Imran Farhat (10) with his first delivery while Mohammad Hafeez, whose 27 was the second highest score in Pakistan innings, could not convert the start either.
Younis Khan (18) became Fernando’s second victim while Shoaib Malik (two) was foxed by a Jeevan Mendis googly, much to the disappointment of the Pakistani fans in the stadium.
Mendis unleashed another googly in his next over to remove Umar Akmal (two) leg before.
Pakistan’s crisis compounded when Misbah (16) was run out in his second successive match after a mix-up with Afridi, who took the onus on himself to arrest the slide.
Afridi played with controlled aggression and hit leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna for a massive six, second of his three, to bring up his 32nd ODI fifty.
He was dropped in the deep on 72 but a diving Sangakkara took his second one-handed catch off Thisara Perera to cut short Afridi’s 65-ball knock.
Abu Dhabi hosts the fifth and final match on Wednesday.
(Writing by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; Editing by Dave Thompson; To comment on this story: email firstname.lastname@example.org)