Pakistan romped to a series triumph after their convincing victory over Sri Lanka in the 4th ODI but a drop in intensity is unlikely when Azhar Ali's side takes on Sri Lanka in Hambantota for the fifth and final game on Sunday.
Pakistan, riding on Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad's batting heroics, went past the target of 257 set by Sri Lanka in the fourth ODI on Wednesday to take an unassailable 3-1 lead in the five-match series.
Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews singled out his team's lackluster bowling for the hosts' recent woes. Only three out of the seven bowlers that he used managed to get a breakthrough in that match, with ace pacer Lasith Malinga looking overweight and out of sorts.
“There was no real penetration in our bowling attack,” admitted Mathews, speaking after the 4th ODI.
“Hopefully we can rectify it. We need to play positive cricket and get out of hits hole we have dug ourselves in.”
Sri Lanka's batting on the other hand, has shown signs it can cope without the legendary Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara and barring the third match, most in the line up have chipped in.
Lahiru Thirimanne, Dinesh Chandimal, Kusal Perera and Tilakaratene Dilshan have all contributed.
Meanwhile, Pakistan have got a lot of things going for it, with the relatively inexperienced Rahat Ali, Anwar Ali and Mohamamd Irfan finding their rhythm and the likes of legspinner Yasir Shah keeping things tight in the middle overs.
Hafeez, banned for bowling for a year for a suspect action, is the highest run-getter of the series so far, having notched up 236 runs at at an average of 59.00 in the four matches. Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali along with the veteran Shoaib Malik have ensured Pakistan have avoided any embarrassment with the bat so far.
From the qualification point of view for the 2017 Champions Trophy, the series win is crucial for Pakistan, who, with 90.4 rating points in the International Cricket Council's ranking system, is now two points ahead of West Indies (88.4 points).
This is the first time Pakistan has won a series in Sri Lanka since 2006 and the ODI series will be followed by a two Twenty20 Internationals between the two sides on July 30 and August 1.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Anwar Ali, Yasir Shah, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan, Asad Shafiq, Mukhtar Ahmed, Bilal Asif, Immad Wasim, Ehsan Adil.
Sri Lanka: Kusal Perera, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Lahiru Thirimanne, Upul Tharanga, Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (wk), Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana, Seekkuge Prasanna, Lasith Malinga, Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Ashan Priyanjan, Sachithra Senanayake, Sachith Pathirana.
GALLE: Pakistan defeated Sri Lanka by 10 wickets in the first Test in Galle on Sunday to take the lead in the three-match series.
Leg-spinner Yasir Shah grabbed a career-best seven for 76 to skittle Sri Lanka for a paltry 206 in their second innings just before tea on the fifth and final day.
Pakistan set a victory target of 90, and raced home in 11.2 overs with Mohammad Hafeez remaining unbeaten on 46 and Ahmed Shehzad on 43.
Opener Dimuth Karunaratne top-scored with 79, Lahiru Thirimanne made 44 and and Dinesh Chandimal was last man out for 38, but the rest of the batsmen folded against Pakistan’s incisive bowling in Galle.
The tourists, who led by 117 on the first innings, have the entire post-tea session to achieve the victory target of 90 runs and take the lead in the three-match series.
The 29-year-old Yasir ripped through the batting as Sri Lanka lost their last five wickets for 39 runs after being 167 for five at one stage.
Sri Lanka took their overnight score of 63-2 to 144-4 by lunch, before a further six wickets fell on a dramatic afternoon at the Galle International Stadium.
The hosts lost nightwatchman Dilruwan Perera off the first ball of the day, clean-bowled by Yasir as he shouldered arms to a ball that dipped in after pitching.
The left-handed pair of Karunaratne and Thirimanne gave Sri Lanka the lead with a 69-run partnership for the fourth wicket.
But with the hosts just 15 runs ahead, left-arm seamer Wahab Riaz had Thirimanne caught low at first slip by Younis Khan to keep the interest alive during the lunch break.
Sri Lanka suffered a massive blow off the second ball after resumption when skipper Angelo Mathews was controversially given out caught at short leg by TV umpire Chris Gaffaney.
The New Zealander upheld on-field umpire Richard Illingworth, who had ruled that the batsman was caught at short-leg off Yasir even though replays proved inconclusive on whether the ball had come off the bat.
Mathews, who had called for a review as soon as the umpire raised his finger, was visibly furious as he returned to the pavilion.
Neither hot-spot or snickometer technology is part of the Decision Review System for the series.
Karunaratne’s patience after a vigil of more than four hours at the crease ran out when he attempted a big hit off Yasir, missed the line and was smartly stumped by an agile Sarfraz Ahmed to make it 167-6.
It soon became 175-7 as Kithuruwan Vithanage swept a flighted ball to Zulfiqar Babar at square-leg, giving Yasir his second haul of five wickets or more in an eight-Test career.
Dhammika Prasad was stumped off Babar and Rangana Herath holed out in the deep off Yasir, before Chandimal was last man out, stumped off Yasir.
Bad weather had washed out the entire first day’s play on Wednesday and just 64 overs were bowled on the second day due to a wet outfield.
The Tests will be followed by five one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches.
LAS VEGAS: Britain’s former two-time light-welterweight world champion Amir Khan has said he wants to be the next opponent for Floyd Mayweather after watching ringside as the American outpointed Manny Pacquiao in the Las Vegas superfight on Saturday.
Mayweather kept his unbeaten record with a unanimous points victory over Pacquiao in a welterweight unification showdown that failed to live up to all the pre-match hype, but fully highlighted the winner’s superb defensive skills.
Mayweather said after the fight that he would only get in the ring once more — in September — and Khan, 10 years younger at 28, believes he is ideally placed to be the American’s final opponent.
“I think the fight is there,” Khan told BBC Radio Five Live’s Sportsweek programme.
“I spoke to Len Ellerbe, his manager, I saw him in the media room and he came over to say ‘hi...he’s ready when you are’.
“I think Mayweather’s team wanting the fight. But then - on the other hand — I’ve even spoken to Manny’s team and they said the same thing. [They said], ‘Look Amir, I think it’d be good to have the fight between you and Manny next’.
“So, I’m in a position where I could fight either guy but I think Mayweather’s the one I want, because I really believe I have his number.”
The Bolton boxer, with 30 wins and three losses to date in his career, is in action later this month in New York taking on Chris Algieri, but he hopes to get in the ring with Mayweather later this year or early in 2016.
“I think it would be an amazing fight, one that boxing fans all around are talking about because I really believe size is a big factor between me and him and the speed and the power as well. I really believe I have his number.”
MUMBAI: Tragedy struck Indian cricket on Monday when a 20-year-old player died as a result of a freakish on-field collision with a team mate during a club match in the eastern city of Kolkata.
Four months after Australia cricketer Phillip Hughes died after being hit by a bouncer, Ankit Keshri, a former captain for his state's under-19 team, battled for three days before passing away at a Kolkata hospital.
“It's so unfortunate. He was such a promising cricketer and for him to pass away in such a manner is difficult to swallow,” Subir Ganguly, the joint secretary of the state's cricket association, said.
Keshri, a right-handed batsman and leg-spinner, came on as a substitute fielder for his club and collided with a team mate as both players went for a high catch.
He briefly lost consciousness but was resuscitated by a team mate, following which, he was rushed to hospital. According to doctors, Keshri's condition was stable but he suffered a cardiac arrest around midnight on Sunday and died early on Monday morning, officials of the state association said.
In November, Hughes passed away at the age of 25, two days after he was struck in the neck by a bouncer with the incident sparking a massive outpouring of grief across the world.
MELBOURNE: Michael Clarke hit 74 in his last one-day international to lead Australia to their fifth World Cup title with a seven-wicket win over New Zealand in a disappointing final on Sunday.
A record crowd of 93,013 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground saw power-packed Australia bowl out the Black Caps for 183 and then gallop to victory in the 34th over.
Clarke, who announced his retirement from the one-day format on the eve of the final, added 112 runs for the third wicket with his likely successor Steve Smith, who returned unbeaten on 56.
The emphatic win was set up by the left-arm fast bowling trio of Mitchell Starc, James Faulkner and Mitchell Johnson who shared eight wickets after the Kiwis elected to bat on a good pitch.
New Zealand messed up their maiden appearance in the title clash of cricket's showpiece event, falling like nine pins against the hostile Australian bowling.
Inspirational captain Brendon McCullum fell off the fifth ball of the innings for a duck and two other frontline batsmen, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi, also failed to score.
South Africa-born Grant Elliott top-scored with 83, sharing a fourth-wicket stand of 111 with Ross Taylor (40) after New Zealand had been reduced to 39 for three in the 13th over.
The massive crowd, which broke the MCG record of 91,112 on the opening day of the Boxing Day Test against England in 2013, saw New Zealand lose their last seven wickets for 33 runs.
New Zealand crumbled after going into the final as the only unbeaten team in the 14-nation tournament, their eight wins including a one-wicket success over Australia in a low scoring pool stage thriller.
Australia's previous titles came in 1987, 1999, 2003 and 2007 with coach Darren Lehmann, a two-time World Cup winner as a player, celebrating another success off the field.
New Zealand raised hopes of repeating their amazing win in the league when they removed Aaron Finch for a duck in the second over, Trent Boult taking an easy return catch as the ball lobbed off the batsman's bat and pad.
Left-hander David Warner slammed seven boundaries in his 45 off 46 balls, adding 61 for the second wicket with Smith.
But the pugnacious opener was unable to build on his fine start as he pulled seamer Matt Henry down Elliott's throat at deep square-leg.
Smith, who scored a century in the semi-final against India in Sydney last Thursday, continued his good form to help Clarke take charge of the match.
Clarke was bowled by Henry when just nine runs remained for victory and was given a standing ovation by team-mates and fans as he returned with his bat raised.
Smith sealed victory by pulling Henry for a boundary, sparking jubilant scenes in the stands as Clarke and the rest of the team ran on to the field to embrace Smith.
Martin Guptill surpassed Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara's 541 runs to become the tournament's leading run-getter when he reached 10, but he managed to add just five runs more.Starc's two wickets in the innings took his tally to 22, enabling him to emerge with Boult as the joint highest wicket-takers in the tournament.
The tall opener, who hit a World Cup record score of 237 not out against the West Indies in the quarter-finals, was bowled trying to cut Glenn Maxwell's second delivery.
Taylor and Elliott settled in to build a strong partnership and had taken the total to 150-3 when the batting powerplay began after the 35th over.
Both sides fielded unchanged teams from their semi-final wins where Australia beat India and New Zealand downed South Africa in a penultimate-ball thriller.
“I thought it was a fitting farewell for Pup (Michael Clarke). I wish he was there with me at the end. “We said we wanted to play our best game at the end of the tournament and to win it three down is unbelievable.” - Steve Smith who was undefeated with a fifth successive fifty.
“There were plenty of nerves. The delivery to dismiss McCullum (out for nought in New Zealand's first over) was a little plan (bowling coach) Craig McDermott and I have been working on and it was nice to see it come together.” - Mitchell Starc
“You always dream about this as a kid and for it to finally happen, especially at the MCG, is amazing. When you get in a tournament it's all about peaking at the right time, and the way we've played today has been a credit to everybody.” - Aaron Finch
“The bowlers did their job really well and gave us a good total to chase. You've got got be positive and every game we've been 100 percent and done all the right things.” - David Warner
“The staff have been challenging us to play the perfect game and we delivered on the biggest stage. It's been an amazing four weeks.” - Brad Haddin
“These players just keep fronting up for you day in day out. The support we've had has been unbelievable. The Anzac spirit lives on.” - Australia coach Darren Lehmann
SYDNEY: Steve Smith's sublime century laid the groundwork and Australia's pace bowlers finished the job to send the co-hosts storming into a seventh World Cup final with a 95-run victory over champions India on Thursday.
Australia move on to the Melbourne Cricket Ground and a shot at a fifth title against New Zealand on Sunday, while India head home after four months Down Under having come up short in their bid to retain the title they won four years ago.
Smith's 105 helped Australia to a total of 328 for seven, the highest in a World Cup semi-final, and although skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit a defiant 65 in what might be his final one-day innings, India were dismissed for 233 in the 47th over.
India might have fancied their chances of chasing the target down after making a solid start on a good pitch in perfect weather conditions and backed by the majority of a noisy crowd of 42,330 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
When James Faulkner, who had been hammered for 23 runs by Dhawan in his first two overs, got into the act by dismissing Suresh Raina (7), India had lost four of their most coveted wickets for the addition of just 32 runs to fall to 108-4.Mitchell Johnson and Josh Hazlewood had other ideas, however, and they tore the heart out of India's top order by sending Shikhar Dhawan (45), Virat Kohli (1) and Rohit Sharma (34) back inside six overs.
Johnson's bowling was as potent as it has been all tournament and the delivery that clean bowled Rohit a ball after the opener had the temerity to hit him for six sent one bail flying 20 feet behind the stumps.
Faulkner added a flourish by bowling Ravichandran Ashwin and Mohit Sharma in successive deliveries to finish with 3-59 but Umesh Yadav blocked the hat-trick ball.Dhoni and Ajinkya Rahane (44) set about rebuilding the innings with a partnership of 70 but when the captain was run out ambling down the wicket by a direct hit from Glenn Maxwell, the die was cast.
Smith had earlier reprised his role as India's tormentor-in-chief, rarely looking troubled in his 122-minute, 93-ball knock and sharing a second-wicket partnership of 182 with opener Aaron Finch (81).
He secured his fourth straight half century at the World Cup in 53 balls and was soon surging towards his fourth ODI century, which he secured from 89 balls with a six and a four off successive deliveries.The 25-year-old hit 11 fours and two sixes to give India a rude reminder of his prolific form in the test series around New Year, when he scored a century in all four matches.
With Yadav (4-72) to the fore, however, India struck back to remove Smith and then the power-hitters in Australia's middle order.
A late Johnson cameo of 27 not out off nine balls, however, helped bolster Australia's tally and India will rue their failure to dismiss their opponents for the first time in eight matches at the World Cup.
Former West Indies batting legend Brian Lara has implored the senior players of Pakistan to wake up from their slumber if they are to harbour hopes of making it to the quarter-finals, a report published by NDTV said.
“Pakistan will have to wake up some time in the tournament. Some of their top players are still asleep, they have to wake up,” he said.
“Back in 1992, Pakistan had a lot of match-winners. Imran was an inspirational leader. His team members spoke of them being cornered tigers.
“This Pakistan won't create any fear in the opposition. Even if they do reach the quarter-finals, they certainly won't make it to the semis,” Lara said.
Ireland would fancy their chances against Pakistan, the West Indian great went on to say.
The Irish team had knocked Pakistan out from the 2007 World Cup held in the Caribbean.