The ICC's latest fiddle with the rules was primarily responsible for the intrigue in Dubai, where the tale of two batting Powerplays decided the course of the second ODI; Sri Lanka stole 48 off theirs, to poke a slumbering innings to life and propel a surge that yielded 136 runs off their last 20 overs.
Chasing 236, Pakistan were rocked by seam before Umar Akmal's dazzling strokeplay left them needing 93 off the last 15 overs, when their batting Powerplay came into force. A hat-trick of boundaries from Umar reduced the equation to 72 at under a run-a-ball, but he holed out attempting a fourth successive four. Sri Lanka roared back into the game with two more quick breaches, pegging the Powerplay damages at 26 for 3, and steadily closed the game out thereafter.
If the match was played before October 1, Pakistan might have waited for the very end to call the field in, and Umar might have continued in a cautious vein until then. As it transpired, Umar heaved Dilhara Fernando over mid-on, before backing away and scything him through point and blazing him through the covers for fours in the 38th over. He looked to muscle the next ball over mid-on as well, but Dinesh Chandimal intercepted well to give Sri Lanka an opening.
Umar's exit ended a 62-run stand, and Pakistan were in big trouble when Lasith Malinga removed the set Sarfraz Ahmed next ball, to a questionable lbw call when the batting side was out of reviews. Thisara Perera then dismissed Umar Gul to put Sri Lanka on the brink, but Shahid Afridi kept fighting. Tillakaratne Dilshan, however sealed the deal with a direct-hit from point that ended Afridi's cameo, and with it Pakistan's hopes.
Dilshan's athleticism at the end of the evening was in stark contrast to his sluggish footwork while at the crease. Sri Lanka weathered an exemplary new-ball spell from Gul through gumption and fortune - mostly the latter in the captain's case. Nine times in that spell, Dilshan groped and and missed balls that buzzed away off the seam, before shouldering arms to one that came in and passed perilously close to the stumps. Just when it seemed like Dilshan could get away with anything, Afridi slipped a patent faster one past a lazy cut to wreck his stumps.
Upul Tharanga had two escapes, dropped at cover by Imran Farhat, and by the keeper Ahmed, but fought along gamely. Kumar Sangakkara, however, fell by the wayside, leaving Sri Lanka reading from a script similar to the first game: the pitch was drastically losing pace, and Pakistan's all-sorts middle-overs specialists were tying them down. Two maidens were played out, Dinesh Chandimal combusted, and Mahela Jayawardene conceded another maiden as Sri Lanka's outlook worsened by the moment. But the Powerplay was about to change the course of the match.
In the 36th over, Jayawardene sensed release and launched Afridi over extra-cover and the straight field for fours. Tharanga too cashed in, taking Saeed Ajmal for a raft of boundaries as Pakistan's spin gambit in the Powerplay backfired. Jayawardene pounded Gul for two more fours through the off side, and Sri Lanka had finally found their voice in the Middle East. The innings gradually decelerated thereafter, with Tharanga and Angelo Mathews falling at inopportune moments, but the Powerplay had provided enough momentum to haul Sri Lanka to a respectable total. A 17-run final over from Ajmal helped the cause too.
With runs to back him up, Malinga bowled with a freedom that was conspicuously absent in the first ODI. His first ball was on the pads, and Mohammad Hafeez duly whipped it for four, but the radar came on immediately. Two balls later Malinga zipped one away off the seam, and Hafeez nicked behind as he tried to cover the line without getting across. Younis Khan then fiddled at the sort of ball he had avoided so assiduously in the Tests, and Kumar Sangakkara veritably flew to his right, to grab the edge in front of first slip. Thisara backed up Malinga with equally felicitous seam-work, and pinned Farhat with one that nipped in. Farhat left Pakistan in more trouble than they needed at 11 for 3, using up their only review on his way out.
Misbah-ul-Haq guided Umar through the troubled waters, blunting the new balls and saving resources for late. Umar interspersed Misbah's defiance with a streak of breath-taking strokes, starting with a flick and a drive off Malinga. Fernando hurried him into a pull against an effort ball, but the chance slipped past Angelo Mathews' lunge at short extra cover. Pakistan seemed to have restored parity when Umar hit back with two punchy fours, before heaving the first ball of Fernando's sixth over for a six. But Sri Lanka reclaimed control when Misbah walked into an inswinger in the same over to be struck in front. Abdul Razzaq's run-out gave Sri Lanka a firmer grip, but Sarfraz and Umar gave Pakistan the ascendancy with 15 overs left. The Powerplay was about to provide the final twist, though.