Set a DLS target in 252 in 42 overs, Sri Lanka lost Kusal Perera for 17 to a run out. Pathum Nissanka (29) then chipped a return catch to Shadab Khan. However, Kusal Mendis (91 off 87) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (48 off 51) added exactly 100 for the third wicket to lift Sri Lanka.
Iftikhar Ahmed (3/50), however, dismissed Samarawickrama, Mendis and Dasun Shanaka (2) to keep Pakistan’s faint hopes alive. Shaheen Afridi then dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva (5) and Dunith Wellalage (0) off consecutive deliveries in the penultimate over to bring Pakistan right back in the contest.
Needing eight to win off the last over, Charith Asalanka (49 not out off 47) held his nerve and took Sri Lanka home. The Lankans needed two off the last ball and Asalanka calmly clipped a full delivery from debutant Zaman Khan behind square to put Sri Lanka in the final.
Batting first after winning the toss in another rain-affected contest, Pakistan put up 252 for 7 in 42 overs. Pakistan got off to a poor start yet again as Fakhar Zaman, who was drafted back into the playing XI after Imam-ul-Haq suffered back spasms, was cleaned up by Pramod Madushan for 4 off 11 balls.
Abdullah Shafique and skipper Babar Azam lifted the batting side, adding 64 runs for the second wicket. However, Dunith Wellalage again produced a beauty and had Babar stumped for 29 off 35 balls. After drawing the Pakistan skipper forward, the left-arm spinner got one to turn past the outside edge and had the batter stumped in brilliant fashion.
Pakistan lost their way after Babar’s dismissal. Shafique fell immediately after crossing his half-century. He was out to Matheesha Pathirana for 52 off 69 balls. Mohammad Haris (3) then gave a return catch to the Sri Lankan fast bowler. Pakistan were 130/5 in the 28th over when an injured Maheesh Theekshana cleaned up Mohammad Nawaz for a run-a-ball 12.
Nawaz’s dismissal was followed by rain immediately afterwards. When play resumed, Mohammad Rizwan (86 not out off 73) and Iftikhar Ahmed (47 off 70) featured in a terrific partnership for the sixth wicket. The duo added 108 runs as Rizwan struck six fours and two sixes, while Iftikhar hit four fours and two maximums. For Sri Lanka, Pathirana claimed 3/65 from eight overs while Madushan picked up 2/58 from seven.
--By A Cricket Correspondent