Homecoming of cricket in Pakistan. Security arrangements and senior Sri Lankan players pulling out. Result – a 2nd string Sri Lanka side visiting Pakistan for 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is. On Monday, however, the same 2nd string side did what no other team from the island nation had managed to do before: beating Pakistan in a T20I series!
Built on a rollicking 77 off 48 balls from Bhanuka Rajapaksa, who was just playing his 2nd game for Sri Lanka, the tourists posted a total of 182/6 in their 20 overs. In reply, Pakistan could only muster 147 in 19 overs as they fell to a 35-run defeat in the 2nd T20I of the 3-match series in Lahore.
The 27-year-old Rajapaksa hit 6 sixes and 4 fours to put Sri Lanka on the path of a big total after last match’s hero Danushka Gunathilaka departed early for 15 off the bowling of Imad. Rajapaksa and Shehan Jayasuriya together at the crease and the duo forged a scintillating 94-run partnership off just 62 balls to take the game away from Pakistan. Rajapaksa was particularly great to watch as he trusted his great hand-eye coordination to time the ball beautifully between gaps while not shying away from nailing the towering sixes either.
”Not an easy task to come to Pakistan and beat the No. 1 side but the confidence from the coaches helped a lot. Beating the No. 1 side, it would take it any day. It means a lot to me” said Rajapaksa, after winning man of the match award.
With one game to play, Sri Lanka’s 2-0 lead is unassailable, a remarkable turn-up considering the disparity between the sides’ MRF Tyres T20I Team Rankings. Pakistan’s experimental side hasn’t had the desired effect, while Sri Lanka’s second string have exceeded expectations, and will be hopeful of securing a clean sweep in the third T20I on Wednesday, 9 October.