London: Sarfraz Ahmed lead from the front as Pakistan booked their place in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 semifinals thanks to a win over Sri Lanka. Nuwan Pradeep’s three wickets put Sri Lanka in the driver’s seat, but Sarfraz and Mohammad Amir guided Pakistan home.Earlier, Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali took three wickets each as Sri Lanka were all out for 236.
Niroshan Dickwella scored a brilliant half century but the Pakistan bowlers were able to restrict them to a below par total. Fahim Ashraf and Mohammad Amir also contributed with two wickets each. Pakistan will now take on England in the semi-final.
Despite making hard work of Monday’s win, it is a remarkable comeback from Pakistan after they lost their opening game of the tournament to rivals India. If they can overcome England in Cardiff, Pakistan will contest their first Champions Trophy final on Sunday.
It is a disappointing end to the tournament for Sri Lanka, who failed to build on their stunning win over India last week.
After losing Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal before the end of the 16th over, Sri Lanka recovered to 161-3 with captain Angelo Mathews looking settled at the crease.
However, in a spell of left-arm seam bowling which at times was reminiscent of Wasim Akram, Mohammad Amir and Junaid turned the game on its head. Amir took the wicket of Mathews (39), who bottom-edged a pull shot to send the ball crashing into the stumps.
Dhananjaya de Silva, making his first appearance of the tournament, was caught behind for just one after a fine delivery from Junaid found some movement off the turf.
As his team-mates faltered, opener Niroshan Dickwella had provided some stability for Sri Lanka. He paced his innings nicely, scoring four boundaries before he departed for 73 courtesy of a tremendous one-handed diving catch by Sarfraz behind the stumps off the bowling of Amir.
Then Thisara Perera (1) edged Junaid to slip after swinging wildly and Sri Lanka had collapsed to 167-7. Aside from that game-changing spell in the middle overs, it was a professional performance from Pakistan’s other two seamers.
Debutant Faheem Ashraf picked up two Sri Lankan wickets, while Hasan Ali produced another terrific bowling display. As Sri Lanka looked to be heading towards a score of around 250, Hasan – the pick of the bowlers in Pakistan’s win over South Africa at Edgbaston – took the wicket of Suranga Lakmal (26) with a superb slower-ball off-cutter which just clipped the bail.