Sri Lankan captain Dinesh Chandimal vowed his team would come back hard at Pakistan in the second Twenty20 international in Dubai on Friday to keep their world number one ranking intact.
Pakistan edged out Sri Lanka by three wickets in a thrilling last-over finish in the first match on Wednesday. If Pakistan, currently fourth, win on Friday they will displace Sri Lanka as number one team in the Twenty20 rankings.
But Chandimal said his team was working hard to bounce back. "Pakistan have played some good cricket in South Africa recently and we never underestimated them, especially in limited over cricket, so we will put our heart and soul and come back strongly," he said.
Sent into bat, Sri Lanka rode on a brilliant 34-ball 50 by Angelo Mathews. Pakistan chased down the target off the first ball of the 20th over with Shahid Afridi hitting paceman Nuwan Kulasekara out of the ground, scoring a fiery 20-ball 39 not out.
Chandimal, who made 22 but wasted a good start, admitted his team were short of an ideal total. "I think we were 10-15 runs short. The ball was coming nicely to the bat. After that, bowlers did not bowl in right areas. At the end after ten overs the dew factor came into play and spinners couldn't grip the ball," said Chandimal.
Ace Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis conceded 29 runs in his four overs while Sachitra Senanayake finished with 1-13 in his three.
Chandimal said Afridi's innings was the turning point. "Afridi played a good cameo and his innings was the turning point but that is not the end of the world and we have to pick up the pieces and win the next game," said Chandimal.
Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez said he was pleased with his side's batting. "To be honest we were expecting the same total of 140-145 because we have the batting to chase that down.
"We have all-rounders like Afridi, Bilawal Bhatti and Sohail Tanvir so the boys showed great character and the way Afridi finished the game, it's always pleasing," said Hafeez.
Hafeez said Pakistan have been trying some new players ahead of World Twenty20 in Bangladesh in March-April next year. "We know that a big event is coming so we have a plan that seniors and juniors play together and with this the juniors get the feel of international cricket," he said.
Pakistan inducted 19-year-old paceman Usman Shinwari in the eleven, but the left-armer finished with 0-9 in his only over. Afridi, a swashbuckling allrounder who has been known in recent years more for his exploits with the ball said he also realises he needs to contribute with the bat.
"I am giving a lot of focus on my bowling. But I know how important my batting is and Hafeez gave me the confidence and I was waiting for this kind of knock," he said.
With the match-winning knock Afridi became the first player in all T20 cricket to score 1,000 runs and take 50 or more wickets. He also took home the man-of-the-match award.