SHARJAH, Friday – Despairing Sri Lanka were looking from where they can find an answer to plug the hole that is leaking out so many defeats for them in the ODI format as they slid to their eleventh consecutive loss when Pakistan beat them by seven wickets in the fourth match to take a 4-0 lead in the five-match series at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday. Even a change of venue to Sharjah that holds the world record for the most number of ODIs hosted at one venue in the Guinness Book Of World Records (227 matches) could not bring Sri Lanka that change of fortune despite the shorter boundaries in comparison to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The only thing they won was the toss for the third time in four attempts and taking first lease of a flat Sharjah track full of runs made a royal mess of it succumbing to 173 all out in 43.4 overs.
Champions trophy champs Pakistan on a role continued their brilliant form by knocking off the required runs off 39 overs making 177 for three wickets with in-form Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik hitting solid half centuries in an unbroken fourth wicket stand of 119 off 152 balls.
Both batsmen finished on identical scores 69 not out with Babar using 101 balls (5 fours) for his seventh ODI fifty and Malik 81 balls (2 fours, 3 sixes) for his 41st ODI fifty.
Sri Lanka suffered from a common syndrome of losing wickets at the top and failing to last the quota of 50 overs. They were pushed onto the back foot right from the second over when debutant left-arm bowler Usman Shinwari bowled the in-form Sri Lankan skipper Upul Tharanga through the gate for a duck.
Within a matter of 11 overs Sri Lanka were four down for 72 and there was no fight back but a complete downslide. Where Sri Lanka perhaps missed out was during the Chandimal-Thirimanne liaison which ended in an awful run out of Chandimal (who was looking good) over a misunderstanding with both batsmen finding themselves at the same end.
Once again it was a one man show as it has been right throughout the series for Sri Lanka. On this occasion it was Lahiru Thirimanne who scored a resolute half century – 62 off 94 balls - his second of the series and the fourth since his return to international cricket in August. He found no support coming from any of the other batters and this has been one of the main features of Sri Lanka’s failures - not being able to put together partnerships.
This Sri Lankan batting line up lacks players who can work the ball between gaps for singles and twos so that the scoreboard is always kept on the move and the bowlers are made to change their lines and lengths because the runs are leaking even though they are not coming in boundaries. Masters of that art were Aravinda de Silva and Arjuna Ranatunga and Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Sad to say this team simply doesn’t have players of that class.
Hasan Ali proved why he is ranked the no. 1 ODI bowler in the world today picking up another three wickets for 37 runs getting breakthroughs for his captain whenever he was brought on.
No doubt this Pakistan attack has variety which no other nation has in one-day cricket today – right-arm and left-arm fast bowlers, off-spinners, leg-spinners and what have you. For a struggling team like Sri Lanka their depth in the bowling is too much to counter.
Sadeera Samarawickrama given his ODI cap by former Sri Lanka captain and present batting coach Hashan Tillakaratne at the start of the match commenced his ODI career with a second ball duck failing to read a delivery from Imad Wasim and being castled.
Samarawickrama was one of three changes Sri Lanka made for this match. He was flown into Sharjah as cover for injured Chamara Kapugedera who had a rather unfortunate accident when a ball lobbed towards him by Niroshan Dickwella during the 3rd ODI hit him in the right cheek. Although there was no fracture there was swelling.
Suranga Lakmal returned to the side after being rested for the third ODI and Seekkuge Prasanna was picked for his first game of the series. Jeffrey Vandersay and Dushmantha Chameera made way for them. Pakistan affected two changes leaving out Fahim Ashraf and Ruuman Raees for Usman Shinwari (debut) and Imad Wasim.
The fifth and final ODI will be played at the same venue on Monday.