Kolkata: Pakistan now becomes the fourth and the final team to make it to the semi-finals after they registered a nervy three-wicket win against Asian rivals Sri Lanka at the Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Monday.
Sri Lanka, who pulled off an upset over the defending champions India in their last game batted first. Left-arm pacer Junaid Khan removed Danushka Gunathilaka in the sixth over of the innings when there was only 26 runs on the board.
However, a 56-run partnership between Niroshan Dickwella (73) and Kusal Mendis (27) brought back the Lankans into the game before Hasan Ali went through the defense of the latter.
Dinesh Chandimal soon made his way back to the pavilion after he was dismissed for a duck but Sri Lankan skipper Angelo Matthews, who had scored a half-century in their victory over India fought his way to 39 and added 78 runs with Dickwella before being Mohammad Amir’s first victim in the competition.
After that, the entire Sri Lankan batting fell apart as from being 160/4, they were reduced to 167/7. However Asela Gunaratne (27) and Suranga Lakmal took the score to 232 before they were dismissed for 236, with four balls still remaining in their innings.
Pakistan, in pursuit of 237, got off to a brilliant start as openers Azhar Ali (34) and Fakhar Zaman added 74 runs in 11.2 overs. Zaman (50), attacked the bowlers and hit eight fours and one six to bring up his maiden ODI fifty in just his second international match.
However with him, Babar Azam (10) and the experienced Mohammad Hafeez (1) being dismissed in quick time, the Sri Lankans sensed a comeback as Pakistan started to panic. When Shoaib Malik (11) too fell with just 130 runs on the board, things looked all gloomy for the men in green but an inspired knock from skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed (61*) and a well supported innings by Mohammad Amir (28*) helped Pakistan cross the line with 5.1 overs left and ensured that they joined arch-rivals India from this group to the semi-finals.
Sri Lanka could only sit back and blame themselves for the dropped catches that cost them the match, which at one stage was under their control. Pakistan would now take on the hosts England in the first semi-final in Cardiff on Wednesday.
Sri Lanka 236 all out in 49.2 overs (Niroshan Dickwella 73, Angelo Matthews 39; Junaid Khan 3/40) lost to Pakistan 237/7 in 44.5 overs (Sarfaraz Ahmed 61*, Fakhar Zaman 50; Nuwan Pradeep 3/60) by 3 wickets.