Pakistan overcame a familiar attack of batting nerves to beat Sri Lanka by three wickets in a see-saw Group B game at Sophia Gardens to set up a Champions Trophy semi-final with hosts England back in Cardiff on Wednesday.
The other semi-final will pit Group B winners India against Group A runners-up Bangladesh at Edgbaston on Thursday.
Pakistan looked to have thrown away their victory chance at several points on Monday as their batsmen's fallibility before the short-pitched ball prompted an astonishing collapse from 74-0 to 162-7.
But captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who had already distinguished himself with two fine catches behind the stumps, steadied the innings, steering them home to 237-7 in the 45th over with a match-winning innings of 61 from 79 balls.
Key moments of Sri Lanka’s defeat:
4 for six runs
At 161 for 3, Sri Lanka were very well placed for an imposing with Niroshan Dickwella and Angelo Mathews locked in a settle partnership but a dramatic middle order collapse helped Pakistan restrict Sri Lanka for a moderate 236.
Mohamed Amir removed Mathews off the second ball of the 32nd over and he was soon followed by Dhananjaya de Silva. Dickwella who was well set for a big inning followed soon when wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed pulled off a superb reflex catch to get rid of Dickwella for 73.
Thisara Perera was caught at slip next over as Sri Lanka slumped to 167 for 7. Suranga Lakmal played a little cameo, (26) sharing 46 for the eight wicket helping Sri Lanka put a decent total on the board.
Pakistan were cruising smoothly but had a similar collapse to Sri Lanka in the middle. They were 167 for 7 by the 30th over, but Sarfraz and Mohammed Amir with a 75-run partnership for the 8th wicket took the Pakistanis home.
Pakistan skipper survived twice—first when Sarfraz chipped it straight to Thisera Perera at mid-on. But Thisara dropped a sitter leaving Lasith Malinga shell-shocked. Pakistan needed 43 runs at that stage to win and qualify for the semi-finals.
With 39 runs still needing, it was anyone’s game at that stage. Sarfraz offered another chance to deep-square but Seekkuge Prasanna who ran in some 10 yards and dives forward, but missed it. Sarfraz made most of the opportunities and played a real captains innings to lead Pakistan to three wicket win.
At the other end, Mohammad Amir provided an equally valuable contribution, taking singles to rotate the strike as he reached an unbeaten 28. Their 75-run partnership was an eighth-wicket record for the Champions Trophy.
"It is an unbelievable feeling. I just said to Amir play your normal game," said Sarfraz who kissed the ground after hitting the winning runs.
Even the captain suffered the occasional rush of blood, however, and was twice dropped on 38 and 40 by Thisara Perera and substitute fielder Seekkuge Prasanna off a disconsolate Lasith Malinga. The same bowler had also seen opener Azhar Ali spilled by Asela Gunaratne in his first over.
For a while it hardly seemed to matter as excellent bowling from Malinga (1-52) and Nuwan Pradeep (3-60) ensured a regular procession of batsmen from the wicket.
Earlier, Sri Lanka had suffered a collapse of their own as superb left-arm pace bowling from Amir and Junaid Khan reduced Sri Lanka from 161-3 to 167-7 in four devastating overs.
Charging in with great pace and guile, Amir removed danger man Angelo Mathews for 39 and opener Niroshan Dickwella, whose 73 had provided the base to Sri Lanka's innings.
Junaid (3-40) added to the mid-order carnage as Sri Lanka, who had begun breezily to reach 82-1 from 14 overs, could do little more than see out their overs to post a disappointing 236 all out, with Hasan Ali also weighing in with 3-43.
Sri Lanka's total always looked below par, particularly after Pakistan pinch-hitter Fakhar Zaman smashed a quickfire 50 in 11 overs. But his departure without adding another run set the nerves jangling and by the end Pakistan were limping home.
Pakistan's semi-final will be their first meeting with England in a 50-over tournament since 2003 and their first knockout clash since they won the 1992 World Cup final.
Pakistan's pace attack has restricted Sri Lanka to 236 in their sudden-death Champions Trophy clash in Cardiff. Opening batsman Niroshan Dickwella made a fine 73 as Sri Lanka's innings showed early promise, but the Pakistanis came roaring back into the contest thanks to some fine bowling from Hasan Ali (3-42), Junaid Khan (3-40) and Mohammad Amir (2-53). Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and Junaid got the early breakthrough, removing Danushka Gunathilaka for 13, before Kusal Mendis (27) and Dinesh Chandimal (0) fell in quick succession. Dickwella, who had earlier signalled his attacking intentions with a stunning scoop shot for four, teamed up with captain Angelo Mathews (39) and for a while it looked as if the Sri Lankans were on track for a sizeable total.
At 3-161 in the 32nd over, Amir knocked over Mathews to claim his first wicket of the tournament and trigger a dramatic collapse of four wickets for just six runs. Amir took a second while Junaid took two more as the pace pair followed Hasan's lead, extracting movement from the pitch and through the air in an impressive display of fast bowling. Asela Gunaratne (27) and Suranga Lakmal (26) put on 46 for the eighth wicket to help Sri Lanka post what was in the end a moderate total, but the island nation will need an outstanding bowling effort if they're to progress through to the semi-finals.
Earlier, Sri Lanka batsman Dhananjaya de Silva was included after batsmen Chamara Kapugedera and Kusal Perera were both ruled out for the remainder of the tournament, while teenage leg-spinner Shadab Khan was left out of the Pakistan XI, with debutant quick Fahim Ashraf (2-37) included in his place.
Pakistan Playing XI
Sri Lanka Playing XI
Pakistan won the toss and elected to field
Pre Match Press Conference Video
Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan are upbeat after their upset victories and it’s difficult to pick a favourite when they face each other in their concluding Champions Trophy group match in a virtual ’quarterfinal’ in Cardiff on Monday.
Both the teams lost their opening matches but bounced back into reckoning after producing two of the tournament’s biggest upsets so far.
Pakistan suffered a 124-run thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals and defending champions India but then notched up an upset win over world number one side South Africa to stay alive.
Sri Lanka too suffered a heavy 96-run defeat at the hands of South Africa but came up with a stunning batting show to shock India by seven wickets to place themselves in contention for a semifinal berth.
The Teams (From):
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt.), Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Junaid Khan, Mohammed Amir, Mohammed Hafeez, Shadab Khan and Shoaib Malik.
Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (capt.), Dinesh Chandimal, Niroshan Dickewalla, Kusal Mendis, Dananjaya de Silva, Thisara Perera, Sekkuge Prasanna, Nuwan Pradeep, Suranga Lakmal, Lakshan Sandakan, Lasith Malinga, Asela Gunaratne, Nuwan Kulasekara.
Sri Lanka looked pedestrian in their opening game defeat at the hands of South Africa, failing collectively in the absence of their captain Angelo Mathews.
The return of Mathews seemed to have inspired the Lankans in their match against India as they pulled off a dramatic win over the defending champions who apparently had no chinks in their armour until the loss.
Set 322 to win, Sri Lanka knocked off the runs with eight balls to spare thanks to contributions from Kusal Mendis (89), Danushka Gunathilaka (76) and Mathews (52).
ANGELO MATHEWS: We've just got to treat this as just another game because we know that the pressure is on obviously. And both teams will feel the pressure. So we've got to -- you know, as we came into the Indian game, we knew that there were no expectations. You know, as I said at the post-match press conference, that the pressure was not really on us, and that's how we want to look at this game as well. Yes, there will be expectations now, but we just want to treat this just as a game and try and focus on what we have to do and what we can do.
ON KUSAL PERERA: It's a shame to lose Kusal. He batted extremely well. Given the fact that he was -- we brought him as the third opener, but he can bat in the middle as well. So he's always that player who can bat anywhere in the batting lineup. So that gives us a lot of options.
Yeah, unfortunate that he's gone back, but Dhananjaya de Silva is also a very good player, and we had to bring him to the squad because we are left with only seven batters at the moment.
We haven't still had a good look at the wicket. We'll probably decide later on or, if not, tomorrow early morning to give ourselves a chance to just see what the wicket looks like tomorrow as well and then make a call. He has a good chance of playing, but we still haven't decided.
Pakistan bowlers, except for Mohammad Amir, were hammered by the top-order Indian batsmen but they made amends against South Africa whose batting line-up has several match-winners like A B de Villiers and Hashim Amla.
Left-arm spinner Imad Wasim (2/20) and paceman Hasan Ali (3/24) bowled beautifully to restrict the Proteas to a meagre 219 for 8.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed had attributed the win against South Africa to good bowling against a strong side and he would look for another such display against the Lankans tomorrow.
The Pakistani side also had the luxury of playing in front of a partisan crowd in Birmingham. It is unlikely to have the same support in Cardiff tomorrow and it will have to be seen how much it impacts on the team performance.
MOHAMMAD HAFEEZ: Well, first of all, we believe as a team we are ready and crystal clear when it comes to preparation, when it comes to the role. And the situation is very clear in front of us - like we have to win the game because rest of the things is just irrelevant because, once you are clear, then all things will come into place.
So we are ready. We know like this is a game we all want to win and want to go through to the semis.
Yes, we saw a little bit of the conditions. We had a couple of sessions here, and we very much prepared for that.
History, however, favours Pakistan as they have won twice as against one by Sri Lanka in Champions Trophy. Overall, in the 147 matches the two sides have played against each other, Pakistan have won 84 as against 58 by Sri Lanka. One match was tied while four games ended as ‘no result’
Most of the matches in this event have been affected by rain and if a washed out happens tomorrow, it will be a complex calculation to decide who make it to the semifinals.