Pakistan 292 for 6 (Babar 103, Malik 81, Lakmal 2-47) beat Sri Lanka 209 for 8 (Thirimanne 53, Dananjaya 50*, Hasan 3-36, Raees 3-49) by 83 runs
Pakistan reasserted their dominance in the UAE with a crushing win in Dubai over a Sri Lanka side that has seen ODI wins excruciatingly hard to come by in 2017. A century from Babar Azam - back playing his most favoured format - and a blistering 81 from Shoaib Malik saw Pakistan set Sri Lanka a stiff target of 293. They were never really in the chase, losing half the side for 67, with Rumman Raees and Hasan Ali leading the 83-run rout and handing them their eighth consecutive loss in the format.
Upul Tharanga won the toss and opted to bowl when most - Sarfraz included - considered fielding under the scorching Dubai an unappealing prospect. But Sri Lanka's opening bowlers Suranga Lakmal and Lahiru Gamage backed up their captain with a stellar opening spell, characterised by subtle swing and consistent line and lengths that deprived Pakistan of scoring opportunities. Ahmed Shehzad fell in what is becoming increasingly predictable fashion, getting bogged down by 11 dot balls, before coming down the wicket to Gamage and gifting midwicket a simple catch.
It wasn't until Babar, who had managed to hang in despite struggling for rhythm, and the street-smart Malik came together, that the momentum took a clear shift in Pakistan's favour. The running between the wickets was excellent, and Malik was destructive when he decided to take the aerial route, with even the tricky Dhananjaya rendered ineffective towards the close of the innings.
The bowling looked particularly toothless as Babar and Malik set themselves up for the finish, even if they were unable to come up with the sort of power-hitting the innings required at that stage. For their part, Sri Lanka were superb in the field, in stark contrast to the series against India, with fielders in the infield throwing themselves around and saving several runs. It wasn't until the last six overs that the big runs really began to leak, but along with it came regular wickets that stymied Pakistan's charge in the slog overs. Where once 300 looked a formality, Pakistan ended up scrambling to reach 292.
Even so, the target was a formidable one, and Sri Lanka began with a clear, positive intent. Upul Tharanga and Niroshan Dickwella sought to take advantage of the Powerplay in a way Pakistan had not, hitting five fours in the first 19 balls. But from the moment the first wicket fell, Dickwella poking at a ball from Raees that nipped away from him, the rot set in. The run rate began to drop sharply; just five runs were scored off the next 24 deliveries. Raees was the most menacing and accounted for Dinesh Chandimal's wicket too, the ball swinging back into the right-hander and trapping him plumb in front.
Tharanga looked thoroughly unconvincing once Mohammad Hafeez came on, surviving numerous lbw appeals in a phase when the middle of his bat completely disappeared from the game. After being worked over for a couple of overs, the Sri Lanka captain was put out of his misery by Hafeez with a ball that skidded on and thudded into his off stump. Two overs later, Hasan Ali dismissed Kusal Mendis and Milinda Siriwardana off successive deliveries, effectively putting the game to bed.
The lower order hung around long enough to seriously frustrate Pakistan, without really having a hope of winning. Thisara Perera provided brief entertainment before top-edging Shadab Khan and holing out, substitute fielder Faheem Ashraf taking an excellent catch. Raees came back into the attack and ended the resistance of the last recognised batsman Lahiru Thirimanne, who top-scored with 53.
Where Pakistan might have expected to skittle the tail out cheaply, Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay, the Nos. 8 and 9, viewed the situation as an opportunity to get batting practice. While they never showed any intent of even trying to reach the target, they grittily hung around for a 68-run partnership, ensuring Sri Lanka batted out their full fifty overs.
Dananjaya ended up with an unbeaten fifty as the game meandered along for a full two hours. Pakistan seemed content to bowl out the overs than look to finish with a flourish. Even so, by the time Pakistan inevitably took a 1-0 lead, all Dananjaya and Vandersay had done was sprinkle some respectability onto another abject white-ball performance from Sri Lanka.