Asia Cup 2023: Rizwan's blitz takes Pakistan to 252 against Sri Lanka
Pakistani batsmen shifted gears with Mohammad Rizwan (86) and Iftikhar Ahmed (47) displayed stylish shot making taking the team to a commanding score.
COLOMBO: Fifties by Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan were the rocks around which Pakistan built their competitive 252 for seven against Sri Lanka in a must-win Asia Cup Super Four match here on Thursday. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka are tied on two points each, and the winner of this match will face India in the final on Sunday.
Shafique (52 off 69 balls) and Rizwan (86 not out off 73 balls) played contrasting knocks after Pakistan elected to bat first on another rain-affected day.
They received some late push from Iftikhar Ahmed (47 off 40 balls).
The intermittent rain reduced the match first to a 45-over-a-side affair and then to 42 overs, and that meant Pakistan needed to redesign their target constantly.
The pitch was not the smoothest to bat on either, but Pakistan found some early momentum through Shafique and captain Babar Azam (29) after the early dismissal of Fakhar Zaman.
Shafique and Babar milked 64 runs in a little over 11 overs. Shafique scored runs in a more orthodox way and his cracking cover drive off pacer Matheesha Pathirana (3/65) was a sight for sore eyes.
Just as the second wicket alliance was blossoming, Dunith Wellalage snapped it.
The left-arm spinner, who grabbed five top-order batters against India on Tuesday, this time weaved his magic around Babar.
Babar assumed the ball was coming into him once it pitched outside the off-stump and played for the spin, but it went away from him for Kusal Mendis to complete a flash stumping.
The dismissal of Babar pushed Pakistan into a mini-collapse as they lost three more wickets for 30 runs inside six overs.
At 130 for five, they were in grave danger of getting out for a below par total, as the Lankan spinners tried to dominate the proceedings in the middle overs as they had done against India.
But Rizwan and Iftikhar dashed their hopes during an entertaining 108-run stand for the sixth wicket.
Veteran wicketkeeper batsman Rizwan was not really among runs of late, and he chose a perfect moment to get a few against his name.
It was a typical innings by Rizwan, starting on a slow tempo before exploding with some towering shots through the on-side in the latter part.
Iftikhar has a non-complicated mind as a batter, as he just tries to muscle every ball coming his way out of the ground employed a similar strategy here as well.
He was eventually jettisoned by Pathirana, the most successful bowler for Lanka, but by then he had done his job.