Shadab swings low-scoring scrap with ball and bat

Thisara Perera exults after taking a wicket
Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 2nd T20I, Abu Dhabi October 27, 2017

Pakistan 125 for 8 (Sarfraz 28, Shehzad 27, Thisara 3-24) beat Sri Lanka 124 for 9 (Gunathilaka 51, Samarawickrama 32, Faheem 3-16) by two wickets

There was a hat-trick from Faheem Ashraf, and a Sri Lankan collapse that saw them lose eight wickets for 14 runs. That might suggest another rout of the hapless visitors, but nothing could be further from reality. In the game of the entire tour, Pakistan edged home with one ball to spare, with only two wickets in hand when the winning runs were struck. They were struck by none other than golden boy Shadab Khan, who smashed a six off the game's penultimate ball to wrench victory from Sri Lanka's desperate, clawing hands.

This was a complete T20 game, beginning with intelligent batting by Sri Lanka, put in after Pakistan won the toss. That was followed by a remarkable collapse from 106 for 1 to 120 for 9. Pakistan looked like they were cruising early on, before an excellent spell by captain Thisara Perera dragged Sri Lanka back. From there, they held the ascendancy right until the last three balls. Pakistan needed eight off them. Shadab hit a straight six and a couple off the next delivery denied Sri Lanka's valiant young side victory in an astonishing contest.

It was Sri Lanka's best game of the limited-overs tour. The batsmen early on deprived Pakistan of wickets while keeping the score ticking. A 63-run second-wicket partnership between Gunathilaka and Sadeera Samarawickrama set Thisara's men up for a score above par, with fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Usman Khan expensive in the early overs.

Shadab was the only bowler in the middle overs able to rein in Sri Lanka. At one point, they might have been eyeing 150, but a superb spell from the teenager prevented them from cutting loose. He has added another variation, a quicker one that can reach 120kph, and it removed Sri Lanka's top scorer Gunathilaka amidst their late collapse. Shadab might not have taken heaps of wickets, but his figures of 4-0-14-1 were to prove crucial.

In the madness of Sri Lanka's final overs, Faheem Ashraf emerged as the hero with a sensational hat-trick, removing Dasun Shanaka, Isuru Udana and Mahela Udawatte off the last three balls of the 19th over. It was Pakistan's first T20I hat-trick and, in truth, couldn't have come from an unlikelier source.

Poor running and brilliant fielding hurt Sri Lanka's innings: there were three run outs, The wickets that crumpled in a heap towards the end crushed their hopes of a late charge, and while it was still an improvement on yesterday, they still finished with a below-par 124.

Pakistan were tentative in their approach to the chase, almost as if they had forgotten what to do when a match become mildly competitive. Fakhar Zaman was run out after miscommunication with Ahmed Shehzad, before Babar Azam fell victim to an incorrect lbw decision. But skipper Perera rose to the occasion, giving his side a real chance of victory, accounting for both Shehzad and Shoaib Malik in his first two overs.

For a while, Mohammad Hafeez and Sarfraz Ahmed looked in control, never letting the asking rate get out of sight. But once Hafeez holed out to long on with Pakistan still requiring 31, panic set in. Perera returned for his final over and got rid of Imad Wasim, and terrific fielding in the deep saw Pakistan's captain run out three balls later. Twenty-one were still required off 14, and with three wickets remaining, Sri Lanka were firm favourites.

Udana conceded only four in a brilliant penultimate over, but the drama all lay in the last over. Faheem was caught at long-on off the first ball of Vikum Sanjaya's over, and with 11 needed off four, Pakistan were up against it. It looked even graver for them when Hasan sliced one straight to long-off, but was reprieved by a crucial dropped catch, allowing Pakistan to scramble three. That brought on strike Shadab, a young man whose honeymoon with cricket simply refuses to end. Two balls and eight runs later, the contest was suddenly over, and Shadab's joy, as well as Abu Dhabi's, was unconfined.

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