(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Sri Lankan batsmen have mastered the art of looking ridiculously bad on good batting wickets. This may sound absurd, but time and again the team have been guilty of not knowing how to bat themselves out of trouble in one-day cricket.
Friday provided Upul Tharanga's men with yet another opportunity to redeem themselves against a very good Pakistan limited overs team after having lost their 10th straight one-day match in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
But the problem that have crept into their game in recent times once again led to their downfall in the fourth match of the five-game Q Mobile one-day series at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Their batsmen kept throwing their wickets away after getting good starts and if not for a patient knock from Lahiru Thirimanne (62, 94 balls, 4 fours), their total would have looked far more embarrassing than what they eventually managed - 173 all out in 43.4 overs.
Pakistan, on the other hand, never looked in trouble when they came out to chase their eight straight win in the 50 overs game.
Despite losing three wickets - Imam
Haq (2), Fakhar Zaman (17) and Mohammad Hafeez (9) - before the end of the 14th over, Pakistan completed a resounding seven-wicket win in 39 overs.
And it was that 23-year-old man again -- Babar Azam (69 not out, 101 balls, 5 fours ) - who rose to the occasion with yet another majestic one-day knock, giving fans further glimpses into Pakistan's batting future. Azam's unbroken 119-run partnership with the veteran Shoaib Malik (69 not out, 2 fours, 3 sixes ), who finished the match with two consecutive sixes off Milinda Siriwardana, took Sri Lanka one step closer to suffering a second successive whitewash in a one-day series.
Sri Lankan woes Tharanga, after electing to bat, thought the flat Sharjah pitch would offer the team the perfect platform to script a face-saving win.
But the elegant left-handed opener, whose batting has been one of the few bright spots for Sri Lanka in this series, was clean bowled in the second over by a sharp in-coming ball from Pakistan's debutant Usman Khan Shinwari. It was just the second ball in one-day cricket for the 23-year-old left-arm pacer Shinwari who jumped for joy after breaking through the defence of a batsman who was playing his 214th one-day game.
Despite the early setback, Niroshan Dickwella (22, 16 balls, 3 fours, 1 six) looked in fabulous touch and the attack-minded left-hander was building a promising partnership with Test skipper Dinesh Chandimal (16, 24 balls, 2 fours). But Sri Lanka suffered a big blow when Dickwella gave a simple catch to Zaman at extra cover off Junaid Khan while trying to go for an inside-out shot.
Six overs later, Chandimal was run out after a terrible mix-up with Thirimanne, leaving Sri Lanka in deep trouble. Sadeera Samarawickrama then got clean bowled by Imad Wasim (2/13) for a second-ball duck on his one-day debut. If that wasn't enough, a stunning diving catch at fine leg by Shinwari sent back Siriwardana (13, 32 balls). The Sri Lankan went for a pull shot off Hasan Ali (3/37) when the situation demanded him to bat in a sensible manner.
Shadab Khan, the 19-year-old leg-spinner, then brought all his variations, dismissing Seekkuge Prasanna (5) and Thisara Perera (0) in successive balls and leaving Sri Lanka in a precarious position at 7/99 in the 25th over. Despite all the mayhem at the other end, Thirimanne remained calm and went on to complete his second half-century in the series. His 43-run partnership with Akila Dananjaya (18, 37 balls, 1 four) for the eight wicket - their highest in the match - made sure Sri Lanka took their total beyond 150.
But they needed at least hundred more runs against a Pakistan team that haven't put a foot wrong since losing their opening match of the ICC Champions Trophy to India on June 4.