A Twenty20 round-robin in Canada does little to set hearts fluttering. Yet when Shoaib Akhtar steams in to bowl at Sanath Jayasuriya and Co, the venue is of little importance. Unfortunately for Pakistan, Shoaib has yet to rediscover his accuracy, and it was Jayasuriya who won the battle, leading Sri Lanka to a convincing five-wicket win in the final of the T20 Canada at King City.
In stark contrast to Pakistan's, Sri Lanka's batsmen set off in frantic pursuit of 133, in front of a boisterous crowd of 9000. Jayasuriya and Mahela Udawatte put on a match-altering 66 in seven overs, though they were indebted to a predictably wayward start from Pakistan's trio of fast bowlers, Shoaib, Sohail Tanvir and, chief culprit of all, Umar Gul.
Jayasuriya shot out of the traps and never allowed Shoaib to settle. Flicking him for four in his first over, he then pulled him for consecutive sixes into the midwicket stand, the second of which went AWOL. Udawatte was no less aggressive, but such was Gul's persistently short length that he spent most of his time on the back foot. A hook for six was followed by a flayed cut for four, and a slice past point scorched the outfield. Sri Lanka's fifty came up inside five overs.
So, it was to spin that Pakistan turned and it brought immediate results when Shahid Afridi - who earlier managed only 14 with the bat - beat Udawatte in flight and had him caught at long-off. Afridi's partner at the other end, Shoaib Malik, then bowled Jayasuriya, and followed it up with the prized wicket of Mahela Jayawardene - both batsmen fell attempting the sweep. They made it five when Kaushalya Weeraratne was bowled in Gul's second spell, but it was all too little, too late, and Chamara Kapugedera's calm 17 guided Sri Lanka to their first win over Pakistan in Twenty20 internationals.
That Sri Lanka were allowed to chase such an attainable target was thanks to their own spin-attack, namely Ajantha Mendis, whose three wickets stifled Pakistan's middle order. Salman Butt played a steady hand for his 44, but wickets fell at crucial moments around him, and Pakistan's innings never gained true momentum. Misbah-ul-Haq cracked two fours in a spirited 25, but no one could truly get on top of Mendis, who ended the tournament with 11 wickets for a frugally economical 55 runs.