Champions Trophy: Captain Sarfraz powers Pakistan into semis
Sri Lanka vs Pakistan, 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Group B, Sophia Gardens. June 12, 2017. Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed celebrates at the end. Photograph: (Reuters)
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed led from the front as he smashed an unbeaten half-century to guide Pakistan to a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their do-or-die Champions Trophy fixture and eventually to the semi-finals here at the Sophia Gardens on Monday.
Chasing a target of 237 runs to win in the virtual quarterfinal clash, Pakistan held their nerve to come out victorious in this knockout encounter.
Pakistan made a great start to their innings with openers Azhar Ali (34) and Fakhar Zaman (50) stitching a crucial 75-run stand to provide their side to laid the platform.
However, Pakistan lost their next three batsmen in quick successions-Babar Azam (10), Mohammad Hafeez (one) and Shoaib Malik (11), who was playing his 250th ODI game.
Imad Wasim and Fahim Ashraf also got out cheaply for four and 15 runs respectively and it looked unlikely for Pakistan to cross the line after being reduced to 162-7.
But Sri Lanka's disintegrated fielding in the last 45 minutes with couple of dropped catches and Sarfraz subsequent half-century saw Pakistan book their place in the semi-finals.
Sarfraz struck an unbeaten 61-run knock off 79 balls besides sharing a pivotal partnership of 75 runs with fast bowler Mohammad Amir (unbeaten at 28) to help Pakistan chase down the target with 31 balls to spare.
Nuwan Pradeep was the pick of the bowlers for Lanka as he finished with the figures of three for 60 while Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal and Thisara Perera all chipped in with a wicket each.
Earlier, put in to bat first, the Angelo Mathews-led sidthey rope chugged and spluttered to a total of 236 after reducing to 167-7 at one point.
Lanka were cruising at 162 for three as Niroshan Dickwella (73) and Mathews (39) took the Pakistan bowlers to the cleaners by sharing a crucial 78-run stand for the fourth wicket.
However, Pakistan bowlers hit back and triggered a middle-order collapse before Asela Gunaratne (27) and Suranga Lakmal (26) tried to save the blushes for their side and guide them past 200-run mark.
Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali were the most economical bowlers for Pakistan as they bagged three wickets each. Mohamad Amir and Fahim Ashraf also contributed with two wickets.
Sarfraz was adjudged `Man of the Match` for his match-winning performance.
Pakistan will now take on hosts England in the first semi-finals at the same venue on Wednesday while the other last-four contest will see defending champions India taking on Bangladesh at Edgbaston a day after.