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Cricket news - Rajapaksa's blitz seals series for Sri Lanka

Rajapaksa played the key role in Sri Lanka's victory

Bhanuka Rajapaksa, playing only his second T20I, came up with a dazzling batting display which was followed by another strong performance with the ball from Sri Lanka as they secured their maiden bilateral T20I series win over Pakistan. Rajapaksa's 48-ball 77, which included six sixes and four fours, helped Sri Lanka finish with a commanding total of 182 for 6 after they opted to bat in the second T20I in Lahore on Monday (October 7). Pakistan lost their way early in the chase with Wanindu Hasaranga doing the damage. They were revived momentarily by Imad Wasim but were eventually shot out as Sri Lanka took a 2-0 lead in the three-match series with a 35-run victory.

Fakhar Zaman, brought in for Iftikhar Ahmed, failed to make an impact as his cheeky attempt at playing a scoop shot off Kasun Rajitha resulted in him being bowled in the third over of the chase. Babar Azam chopped a Nuwan Pradeep delivery on to the stumps in the next over, with the early inroads and Sri Lanka's tight bowling putting Pakistan under the pump. Although Sarfaraz Ahmed counter-attacked with a flurry of boundaries, Pakistan could only manage 40 in the powerplay, with the required rate going past 10.

Having been hit for a four and two sixes across two overs, Hasaranga came back in splendid fashion, with his googly show catching Pakistan on the wrong foot. Ahmed Shehzad came down the track only to be bowled, Umar Akmal was trapped in front for his second successive first-ball duck while Sarfaraz too failed to read the wrong'un, bowled on the cut as Pakistan lost three wickets in four deliveries to slip to 52 for 5.

However, Hasaranga could not boast of a good economy in this game, ending his spell with 38 runs as Imad Wasim led a fightback by taking on the spinners for regular boundaries. Asif Ali provided good support to Wasim as they raised a half-century stand off 32 deliveries. The feature of Wasim's striking was that a majority of his boundaries came between the long-on and long-off fences, and he also capitalised when the leg-side fielders behind square were inside the circle, scoring two successive fours off Isuru Udana. But the bowler concentrated on keeping it straight and full, and reaped the reward when he trapped Wasim in front. There wasn't much fight after that as Pradeep finished with a four-wicket haul to bowl Pakistan out for the second time in as many games.

Earlier, with Danushka Gunathilaka starting off with a flurry of boundaries in the opening overs, extending his fine form on the tour, the signs were ominous for Pakistan. But he fell in the third over against the run of play, edging behind after looking to force the ball off the back foot. Poor fielding, however, was Pakistan's bane early in the innings as there were as many as three run out opportunities missed at the non-striker's end, with a brilliant fielding effort from Shadab Khan that caused the run-out of Aviska Fernando sandwiched in between. Sri Lanka were quick to capitalise on the lapses as Rajapaksa and Shehan Jayasuriya helped Sri Lanka past 50 by the time the powerplay was completed.

While Rajapaksa was the muscle in the third wicket association, he was kept quiet for a while in the post-powerplay period. Meanwhile, Jayasuriya was more about deftness and was constantly on the lookout for singles as he played his role effectively in a steady partnership even as Pakistan tried to keep the scoring in check. Having not scored a boundary for four overs, Rajapaksa eased the pressure with back-to-back maximums off Shadab while Jayasuriya also scored a four in an over that yielded 19. The pressure was back on Pakistan as Rajapaksa registered his maiden half-century, getting there off 31 deliveries, while Sri Lanka stormed past 100 in the 12th over. With another big over to follow - 17 off Hasnain in the 14th, which included two more sixes for Rajapaksa - Sri Lanka were setting themselves up for a big finish.

But the partnership came to an end six short of the century mark courtesy Asif Ali, whose direct hit ended Jayasuriya's stay while Rajapaksa fell soon after, failing in his attempt to clear the fence off Shadab. Similar to the previous game, Sri Lanka lost wickets in a heap in the second half of their innings, this time losing four wickets for 20 runs as Pakistan made a good comeback. But Dasun Shanaka ensured a positive finish, scoring two fours off Amir in the 19th before managing a four and a six off Hasnain in the last over to power Sri Lanka past 180, a total that was more than sufficient in the end.

Brief scores: Sri Lanka 182/6 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 77, Shehan Jayasuriya 34; Imad Wasim 1-27) beat Pakistan 147 in 19 overs (Imad Wasim 47; Nuwan Pradeep 4-25, Wanindu Hasaranga 3-38) by 35 runs.