Consistency is not something you associate with the Pakistan cricket team. But, the squad that is presently in Sri Lanka is definitely rewriting the trend in Pakistan cricket, if only temporarily. They were excellent in the Test series, winning the battle 2-1 putting up a highly impressive effort. And they have continued to do so in the one-dayers as well, as a result of which, they have claimed the series with one match to spare. Going into the fourth ODI, Pakistan were aware that they had to continue the good work they had been doing in the earlier games to clinch the series, and did the same with great effectiveness.
What stood out in the performance on Wednesday, not for the first time in the series, was how dominant they were in their overall effort. There was a point in the match when Sri Lanka were in a very good position to carry on, and register a big score. But, Pakistan held them back courtesy some excellent late overs bowling. The spinners in particular were extremely impressive. Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah and Shoaib Malik combined to keep things extremely tight, which led to the Lankans getting frustrated. For a change, Pakistan's fielding, which has been a subject of ridicule in the past, was also on its toes, making Lanka suffer.
In the past, Pakistan have often struggled with the bat, chasing a small target. But, this Pakistan side is definitely different in the sense that they don't seem to panic, and go about their job in a professional manner. Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez ensured that Pakistan took the series with ease. It was a highly impressive effort from Shehzad, who hardly looked in any sort of trouble, and forever remained in attacking, never actually looking like getting out. Hafeez got off to a slow start, but what he did well was to ensure that he kept his wicket in tact. Once he got his eye in, the task was an easier one for him as well. The start given by Shehzad and Azhar Ali was also fruitful.
If Sri Lanka wanted to do well in the series, they needed their batting to fire. But, it failed yet again, and thus it was not surprising to see the hosts struggle. The Lankans only have themselves to blame though. After losing Kusal Perera early, they found themselves in a very good position as Tillakaratne Dilshan and Lahiru Thirimanne consolidated the innings. Dilshan however fell immediately after reaching his fifty, and Lanka struggled after that. The middle and lower order batting effort was extremely poor, as a result of which the hosts lost the early advantage they had gained. Skipper Angelo Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal's failure made things tough.
Pakistan were always favourites to win after restricting the Lankans, and the bowling by the hosts was once again disappointing. It was mentioned in the preview to the match how much Sri Lanka were suffering due to Lasith Malinga's poor form, and his woes continued in the fourth match, as did Lanka's. The others too have been poor in the series, and nothing changed on Wednesday. Suranga Lakmal was ineffective, Nuwan Pradeep got injured, and Sachith Pathirana was easily taken to the cleaners. In the end, the deserving side won.
--By A Cricket Analyst