How the eff did Sri Lanka lose that game? I have watched the highlights of the game thrice now. What was that one moment that took the game away from the Lankans? – I have struggled all night to answer that question because throughout the game, there were so many of them. At Cardiff, Sri Lanka weren’t stupid, Angelo Mathews’ men were simply moronic.
The day though started well with Dickwella driving Amir through the covers and scooping Junaid over the keeper. They lost an early wicket but the ball didn’t do much and the Pakistani fielders did their best in converting ones to twos. Then Hasan Ali slipped one through Mendis. However, at 82 for 2, it was all cool. But Sri Lanka’s ‘Mr. Potential who never lived up to his talent’ Chandimal decided to throw the spanner into a smoothly rotating Lankan wheel. It was still cool because with a partnership of 78 runs, Mathews and Dickwella brought things back to normal. At the 30 overs mark, Mathews decided to throw down the gauntlet. He danced down the track, hoicked one over mid wicket and the match started to tilt the Lankan way.
Enter Pakistan’s green-eyed retro cherub – reverse swing. Pakistan shifted into Pakistan mode. Weirdly, Sri Lanka too did the same. The left-armer pacers union kicked in and with four down within the next six runs, Sri Lanka were lost, they were super lost. Somehow someone kicked some sense into them and Gunaratne and Lakmal realised, hey, there’s a semifinal spot at stake here.
236 isn’t a big score but with Pakistan chasing, you understand why I say that. But a good lunch break must always be followed by a comforting siesta. Understandably, the Lankan lions sleepwalked through the first 10 overs of the chase.
Except Lasith Malinga. He tried. He really tried hard. But how much more can a 33-year-old-creaking-joints-trying-hard-to-land-his-yorkers pacer do? He delivered his full range – the yorker, the slower, the slower bouncer – but the Lankan fielding was off the charts. Catches to the left of them, catches to the right of them, catches above them – they dropped them all. They even ruined Sarfaraz’s Steve Waugh moment. Just when Sarfaraz was about to walk past Thisara and deliver the Waugh-ish jibe, they dropped him again.
But hey, you can never blame Pakistan for not trying. They are the only side in cricket who believes in total entertainment. Over the years, Pakistan have always maintained that you don’t need to play great cricket to entertain the audience. Mind numbing cricket does a better job. They take it up as a challenge. Whenever an opposition dishes out a sub-par performance, the Pakistan cricket team goes, ‘hold my Tarbooz ka Afraa…we can do worse.’ Then they sprinkle moments of genius over it to give it a tangy flavour.
At Cardiff though, the script looked different. After a terrific performance with the ball, Pakistan took the game by the scruff of the neck. Azhar Ali looked determined while a graceless Saeed Anwar-clone Fakhar Zaman tore into the Lankan bowlers. With the Pakistan openers rattling along, we all wondered, “Where’s the collapse?” Zaman reached his fifty. We waited. Zaman got out. Everyone sat up. Babar Azam followed.
With 2 for 92, Pakistan looked too comfortable. Hence, the senior citizens got to work. Mohammad Hafeez did his bit. Shoaib Malik obliged. Then Azhar Ali thought, “Why should they have all the fun.” With six down and 80 to get, the script was set. But Pakistan don’t read the script. The script reads Pakistan. Help arrived when Sri Lanka took a big step back… and literally, f****d their own face. As if they wanted to make a statement to Pakistan and beat them at their own game. And boy, they didn’t drop character ’till the DVD commentary.
As Sarfaraz ran towards his mates after hitting the winning runs, the camera panned on Angelo Mathews. The Sri Lankan captain stood still contemplating the moronicity of the situation. His sunglasses kept his expressions hidden but the tautness of his ferocious gum chewing jaws gave away his despair. He won’t sleep well for at least a week now. He will stare at the ceiling wondering how the Lankans looked like Sri Lanka but played like Pakistan, disguised as Sri Lanka. But more importantly, what exactly went wrong after a stellar win over India.
Here’s what went wrong Angelo, your mates went full Pakistan man. Never go full Pakistan.