Sarfraz sees Pakistan into Champions Trophy semi-finals

Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (61) cracked a gritty unbeaten fifty as Pakistan survived some tense moments before notching up a thrilling three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their must-win Group B match to enter the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy here today.

Neither team was flawless on the day, with Sri Lanka setting too modest a target considering the competition they faced, although Pakistan will consider this a performance to build from, too, as they chase the finished product.

Sarfraz rebuilt the innings and ultimately guided his team to a famous victory, though Sri Lanka will rue two costly drops when the Pakistan captain was put down on 38 and 40 in consecutive Lasith Malinga overs.

In a virtual quarterfinal between the two South Asian nations, it was Pakistan's captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who took his team through to the semifinals, thanks largely to some very bad, awful fielding and catching from Sri Lanka.

Pakistan started superbly with Fakhar Zaman hitting a 34-ball 50, the second fastest for the team in the Champions Trophy, including eight fours and one six.

Given the carnage of those few overs, Gunaratne and Lakmal did brilliantly well to lift the Sri Lankan score beyond 200 with their 46-run stand for the eighth wicket before Hasan and Fahim eventually mopped up the tail to end the innings.

Pakistan needed a breakthrough and it arrived right on cue when Hasan Ali clean-bowled Mendis with a brilliant delivery that moved late to leave Sri Lanka on 82 for two.

When they slumped from 92 for one to 137 for six in pursuit of 237 for victory, Pakistan looked down and out at Cardiff Wales Stadium.

The victor of the game will advance to the semifinals, likely against England at the same venue on Wednesday.

After Shoaib Malik (11) gloved Malinga behind, Imad Wasim (4) was similarly guilty of just dangling a bat at a short-wide ball he didn't need to play at, getting a thick edge off Pradeep through to Dickwella behind the stumps.

But Sarfraz Ahmed and Mohammad Amir remained calm and kept picking runs.

It brought Dinesh Chandimal to the crease but his stay was reduced to just two balls as the batsman dragged one from Fahim Ashraf onto his stumps, going for a drive.

Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews (39 in 54 balls) and top-scorer Niroshan Dickwella (73 in 86) were among the three wickets to fall in 12 balls.

Skipper Mathews supported his colleague with a patient knock.

It was down to Sarfraz to lead from the front and the 30-year old made the most of two reprieves to steer Pakistan over the line alongwith important contribution from Amir.

Junaid saw the back of Thisara Perera to rattle the Lankan innings.

  • Leroy Wright