Perera and Dilshan propel Sri Lanka to resounding win by Ibrahim Moiz 9th June 2012 Sri Lanka squared the series in style with a clinical 76-run rout over Pakistan at Pallekele. Though it was Tillekeratne Dilshan whose fluent, mature unbeaten century set up a daunting total of 280 for 4, the night’s highlight was a terrific six-wicket swipe for allrounder Thisara Perera, whose nippy seamers collapsed Pakistan after young opener Azhar Ali had set up a deceptively promising platform. Perera’s haul of 6 for 44—his own best and the best by any bowler against Pakistan—sliced through the cream of the lineup in a fine display of swing and cut; no less than thrice did the allrounder strike off the first ball of a spell. It rounded off a superb allround display for Sri Lanka; Dilshan’s excellent unbeaten 119, with 11 fours and a six, anchored them to a powerful score, with some late help from a delightful Mahela Jayawardene cameo. Pakistan had begun the chase on a much brighter note; though it took 16 balls for the visitors to open their account, the classy Azhar, belying his reputation as a long-format accumulator, set off on a sparkling flurry of boundaries; having offered a rare opportunity on nought when the slips were late to react to an edge off Nuwan Kulasekara, Azhar laid into a delightful exhibition of classic square drives, punched off either foot, and once on bent knee, through cover. A stylish cut took him to his fifty off as many balls, and only in the middle overs did the boundaries dry up for the fluent opener. Perera drew first blood on his first ball, swooping across the wicket in his follow-through to snaffle a one-handed return catch off Mohammad Hafeez to end a 48-run stand. And in the second powerplay’s first over, he outfoxed Younus Khan with two lovely leg-cutters; though one edge was dropped by Kumar Sangakkara, the keeper made no mistakes just three balls later (78 for 2). Though Azhar—who dealt nearly exclusively in boundaries early before dropping a gear into the middle—began his 49-run partnership with captain Misbah-ul-Haq (27) fairly promisingly, the required rate steadily began to rise, exacerbated when Azhar abandoned his orthodox style and unsuccessfully tried some innovation in a fine maiden from the frugal Rangana Herath. That maiden immediately preceded Sri Lanka’s breakthrough, Perera’s next spell beginning with a sharp off-cutter that removed Misbah. Umar Akmal was rather unfortunate to go, missing a supposed edge to Sangakkara, but the slide had begun in earnest and Perera had four out of four. Left with no option but to attack against a rapidly spiralling required rate, Azhar—whose leg-stump was splintered lengthwise by a crackling Kulasekara yorker—and Shahid Afridi, whose attempted steer off Lasith Malinga gave Sangakkara a 300th catch at this level perished swiftly to effectively close out the game. There was time for Perera to take a third first-ball strike, as well as the long tail to pursue some largely futile runs. Umar Gul managed to buffet a six before his miss across a fuller Perera ball gave the allrounder the first haul of six wickets against Pakistan. And the rout was over once Sarfraz Ahmed (20) swung wildly across a Kulasekara in-swinger to level the series. Dilshan had set the foundation with a fine hundred and a rare exhibition of playing through the fifty overs. The ominous early boundaries that he hit off the new ball were familiar, but less expected was the sensible circumspection and controlled aggression with which he batted after that. His defence against good balls was respectful and his attack on the bad ones ruthless. Though Sri Lanka lost left-handers Upul Tharanga and Kumar Sangakkara for 18 apiece (84 for 2)—Sohail Tanveer finding the edge before Hafeez accepted a first-ball return catch—Dilshan effectively shouldered the burden. The right-hander began with customary aggression, whipping straighter balls through midwicket and crashing width on the up through cover. Mistakes were few and didn’t cost him; a Gul in-swinger jagged past leg-stump and the debutant left-arm seamer Rahat Ali caught a flashing edge through a vacant cordon, but Dilshan romped past fifty in 60 balls when he flicked a leg-side slider from Afridi too many to the fine leg boundary. At the seamers’ end, young Rahat found both swing and bounce—including a sharp lifter that struck the unusually nervous Dinesh Chandimal—and certainly outbowled the four overs for 34 runs that betrayed his inexperience and occasional inaccuracy. Chandimal rarely looked in form but managed to hang on in a 70-run partnership with Dilshan; curiously Saeed Ajmal was hardly bowled till the closing stages, and by the time Afridi broke the stand, there was a solid platform. Ajmal bowled excellently in the Powerplay, once getting a teasing leading edge from Jayawardene before Sarfraz dropped a catch behind the stumps. But nobody else managed to trouble Jayawardene, whose frenetic improvisation earned him a superb 44-ball half-century, laden with eight fours. Though he drove and pulled the seamer Gul, Jayawardene warded off the spinners in a near-obsessive romance with the sweep and reverse sweep. The captain’s cameo cancelled out his partner’s relative circumspection in approaching his nineties; by the time Ajmal finally bested Jayawardene (240 for 4), Dilshan had reached the landmark, off 120 balls, and celebrated by thumping Tanveer for six over midwicket. Perera’s two sixes in a cameo full of savage straight blows rounded off the innings, and his splendid strikes in the evening capped off a crushing win.