Mohammad Amir went wicketless in the first two games of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Junaid Khan was not among Pakistan’s first-choice pacers for the tournament.
On Monday in Cardiff, the two Pakistan left-arm pacers showed what they can do on their day, wreaking havoc on Sri Lanka’s middle order with a brilliant spell in tandem. Junaid and Amir picked up two wickets each between the 32nd and 35th overs as Sri Lanka lost 4 for 6, before ultimately being bowled out for 236 in 49.2 overs.
Sri Lanka was going strong at 161 for 3 with Niroshan Dickwella (73) and Angelo Mathews (39) well set before the Junaid-Amir show began. Junaid finished with 3 for 40 from his 10 overs, which included three maidens, with two of those being wicket maidens.
Hassan Ali produced an equally impressive spell of 3 for 43.
After winning a crucial toss in overcast conditions, Pakistan’s seamers hit their lines well, with Junaid in particular looking threatening. Sri Lanka’s openers countered the accuracy by targeting the short straight boundaries, driving wonderfully through the line. Dickwella also targeted the boundary behind him, playing an outrageous scoop that would have made Tillakaratne Dilshan proud.
The tempting straight region also resulted in Danushka Gunathilaka’s downfall when he drove Junaid on the up to hand a simple catch to mid-off in the sixth over.
But as they did in the first two games – albeit with varying levels of success – Sri Lanka stayed positive. Kusal Mendis took Junaid for three boundaries in the next two overs and Dickwella stayed over run-a-ball as the partnership quickly went past 50.
Pakistan needed something special to break the stand and it got it from Hassan, who got through Mendis’s defence with a ripper than jagged back in. The ball alone was lethal, but it was more special as he set it up beautifully with an away-moving delivery the previous ball.
One brought two when Dinesh Chandimal played a loose, casual drive three balls later and chopped Faheem Ashraf onto his stumps for a second-ball duck.
At 83 for 3, with Hassan in the midst of a terrific spell, the onus was on the experienced Mathews to lead the recovery. He did that in typical style, collecting runs the harder way.
Dickwella also put his head down and shifted to a lower gear as the duo milked the bowling in the middle overs. Sri Lanka went 13 overs without a boundary between the 13th and the 25th overs, with Dickwella also going through a 54-ball period without a four.
But not once was Sri Lanka bogged down; it still managed a healthy run-rate and reached 160 for 3 in 30 overs, showing the maturity with which the duo was going through the rebuilding process.
The partnership over 75, two set batsmen and a few more power hitters to follow – Sri Lanka seemed set for a strong finish after a good platform.
Any such hopes, though, were destroyed with disdain over the next four overs as Pakistan unleashed its two left-arm pacers in tandem once again.
It all started with Amir bowling Mathews in the 32nd over, cramping him for room and finding the inside edge on the pull. Junaid followed it up with a ripper that found Dhananjaya de Silva’s outside edge.
Much depended on Dickwella from there on but he too fell, inside-edging Amir for Sarfraz Ahmed to take a sharp catch diving to his right. Thisara Perera completed the procession, playing away from the body and giving first slip some easy catching practice. From 161 for 4, Sri Lanka slipped to 167 for 7 in 23 balls.
It could have been worse had Sarfraz held on to a catch from Asela Gunaratne when the batsmen was on 2.
Gunaratne and Suranga Lakmal arrested the slide with a 46-run partnership for the eighth wicket before Hassan accounted for both.