All-round Afridi sinks Sri Lanka

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Shahid Afridi stole the show with both bat and ball as Pakistan landed a 26-run win and subsequent three-one series triumph in Sunday's fourth ODI in Sharjah.

Shahid Afridi stole the show with both bat and ball as Pakistan landed a 26-run win and subsequent series triumph in Sunday's fourth ODI in Sharjah.

At the forefront of Pakistan's recovery from 97 for six to 200 all out, all-rounder Afridi then snared five wickets in 22 deliveries to have Sri Lanka all out for 174.

True to his status as the nation's talisman, the big-hitting Afridi landed four boundaries and a trio of sixes en route to his 75 runs from just 65 balls. It was not all brute force from the right-hander, though, who deployed due measure in the wake of the top- through middle-order's collapse before swinging for the fences when batting partners and the overs were running low.

The Sri Lankans, meanwhile, were guilty of not enforcing the final blows to an innings that really should not have reached its eventual proportions after Dilhara Fernando (three for 26) and Jeevan Mendis (two for 40) had struck with enough regularity to render Misbah-ul-Haq's decision to bat first across low and slow conditions the wrong one.

Shrugging off the relatively early losses of Tillakaratne Dilshan, Upul Tharanga and Dinesh Chandimal to Aizaz Cheema's initial brace and Mohammad Hafeez's lone scalp for the match, the visiting side were always in the hunt on the back of a 102-run stand between Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

The old guard stood firm at a rate of a little more than four runs to the over for more than half the innings and were right on course to settle proceedings well within their 50-over allotment.

Leg-spinner Afridi's introduction, however, ultimately turned the contest on its head. While Sangakkara and Jayawardene, who ended with 58 and 55 respectively, can be blamed for not turning their good starts into larger totals, all-rounders Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera and tail-ender Seekkuge Prasanna didn't have a clue in the face of Afridi's thorough exploitation of the conditions.

Triggering and completing a monstrous collapse that witnessed Sri Lanka lose their last seven wickets for a mere 19 runs, Afridi was duly named Man of the Match for a terrific effort that has the world of cricket smiling at his decision to come out of retirement.

For their fine victory, Pakistan take an unassailable three-one lead in the five-match affair. The final one-dayer gets underway on Wednesday.

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