ABU DHABI: Return to form batsman Mohammad Hafeez said Pakistan’s first-ever win in South Africa raised the confidence of the team, which helped them, beat Sri Lanka in the ongoing five-match series. Pakistan registered a thumping eight-wicket win in the fourth match in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday to take an unbeatable lead with the fifth match here on Friday left inconsequential. The victory gave Pakistan their seventh one-day series win in the calendar year, beating the previous best of six achieved in 2011.
Hafeez scored another match-winning 113 not out in Pakistan’s successful chase of 226-run target, his third hundred in the series. He became the sixth batsmen in all one-day cricket to score three hundreds in one bilateral series and the first Pakistani to do so behind legendary Zaheer Abbas who achieved the honour in 1982. “It’s a great honour to be named alongside Abbas,” said Hafeez, who also crossed 4,000 one-day, runs on Wednesday. Hafeez admitted he was under pressure before the series, having scored only 147 in his last eight matches. Mohammad Hafeez’s turnaround in ODI form has been staggering. Having not passed 35 in his last eight ODI innings, Hafeez now averages 203.50 in the series, with 147 more runs than the second-highest scorer. Pakistan’s dashing allrounder Shahid Afridi, will not be available for the fifth match after he returned home to attend to his ill daughter.
Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews conceded his team was disappointing. The pace attack lacked confidence and penetration as Lasith Malinga went wicket-less for the second time in the series and Nuwan Kulasekara was uncharacteristically wayward. Rangana Herath’s poise and experience has also been greatly missed, as has his indomitable spirit that has seen him script limited-overs comebacks before. Herath’s replacement, Ajantha Mendis, is yet to get a game. The batting has threatened in patches, but unlike Pakistan who have found a centurion in each match and made century stands a defining feature of their innings, Sri Lanka have not managed even one triple-figure partnership. The visitors’ only win was a result of several modest contributions stacked together, but ODI history suggests piecemeal efforts only rarely result in victories.
Pakistan: Sharjeel Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbahul Haq, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Bilawal Bhatti, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Umar Gul.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Angelo Mathews, Nuwan Kulasekara, Kithuruwan Vithange, Sachitra Senanayake, Suranga Lakmal, Lasith Malinga.