Thirimanne & Malinga spur Sri Lanka to victory

Associated Press
Pakistan’s Umar Akmal, foreground, walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal by Sri Lanka’s Suranga Lakmal during the opening match of the Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament between them in Fatullah, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
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FATULLAH, Bangladesh (AP) — Lahiru Thirimanne notched a century in his new role as opening batsman and Lasith Malinga claimed five wickets in his last three overs to spur Sri Lanka to a thrilling 12-run victory over defending champion Pakistan in the Asia Cup opener on Tuesday.

Thirimanne's 102 off 110 balls lifted Sri Lanka to a competitive 296-6 with Kumar Sangakkara (67) and captain Angelo Mathews (55 not out) also scoring valuable half centuries.

Malinga led Sri Lanka's stunning comeback with 5-52 after Suranga Lakmal delivered the breakthrough by having Umar Akmal caught behind for 74 to end a threatening 121-run stand with captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

Malinga dismissed Shahid Afridi for four and had Misbah caught in the deep for 73 in one over before mopping up the tail in his next two overs to bowl out Pakistan for 284 with seven balls to spare.

"I think Umar (Akmal) batted really well, that was a crucial partnership ... we had six wickets in hand and we should have won this game," Misbah said.

"The way the pitch was playing, no turn, nothing for the fast bowler, this should have been chased."

Akmal and Misbah scored better than run-a-ball and Pakistan was cruising at 242-4 in the 43rd over before losing the last six wickets for 42 runs to the genius of Malinga's varied pace.

"I still think we were 20 runs short considering the start Thirimanne and Sangakkara gave us," Mathews said.

"Malinga is the best bowler for us ... whenever we are under pressure he is our go-to man and he did it again."

Earlier, left-handed Thirimanne orchestrated 11 fours and a six — mostly on the off side of the wicket — as he was elevated to open the innings for only the third time in his four-year career in the absence of the injured Tillakaratne Dilshan.

Thirimanne and Sangakkara laid the foundation of a solid total by putting on a brisk 161 off 146 balls for the second wicket after Mathews won the toss.

Umar Gul got the early breakthrough when he had Kusal Perera (14) caught behind before Thirimanne and Sangakkara scored better than run-a-ball on a wicket tailor-made for batsmen.

Sangakkara looked well set for a big knock before he pulled Gul's short delivery straight to short mid-wicket to give Pakistan some reprieve.

Thirimanne completed his century by driving Gul through the covers for a single. But soon after equaling his career-best 102 against Australia at Adelaide last year, he attempted a loose drive off Saeed Ajmal and got his off stump knocked back.

Sri Lanka shuffled its batting order in order to get quick runs but Afridi got through the defenses of Mahela Jayawardene for 13 — playing his first ODI in over three months — and Thisara Perera, who holed out in the deep on six.

Debutant Chaturanga de Silva was run out for two in a mix-up with Mathews as Pakistan hit back with four wickets in quick succession.

But Mathews and Dinesh Chandimal (19 not out) brought Sri Lanka close to 300 by adding 45 runs off 39 balls, with the captain reaching his unbeaten half century in the last over.

Gul got 2-38 while Afridi ended up with 2-56.

Host Bangladesh takes on India on Wednesday with first-timer Afghanistan, the other team in the biennial tournament.

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