HAMBANTOTA, Sri Lanka : A brilliant all-round performance by Thisara Perera guided Sri Lanka to a 77-run victory over Pakistan in their second one-day international on Tuesday to level the three-match series.
Perera's whirlwind 65 off 36 balls took Sri Lanka's total to 310-9 after captain Angelo Mathews missed out on his maiden ODI century, scoring a career-best 93, while Mahela Jayawardene made a polished 67.
Spinners Rangana Herath and Sekkuge Prasanna shared two wickets apiece and Perera polished off the late order with 3-19 to end Pakistan's reply on 233 in 43.5 overs.
Pakistan started off the run-chase confidently through Mohammad Hafeez's brisk 62 with 11 boundaries and Ahmed Shehzad's 56 before losing wickets at regular intervals.
The third and decisive match of the series will be played at Dambulla on Saturday."We had to give a performance to stay alive in the series and winning the toss was crucial," Mathews said. "Once we hit the 310-run mark I thought it would be enough .... then the spinners came to the party and did a very good job."
Hafeez dominated the fast bowlers from the outset as he raised his half century off just 28 balls by pulling, driving and cutting Perera for three successive boundaries.
Hafeez did the bulk of the scoring in a 96-run second wicket stand off 87 balls with Shehzad before both were dismissed by Prasanna. Between those two wickets, Tillakaratne Dilshan got rid of Umar Akmal with his very first delivery.
Pakistan never recovered from those losses. Herath sent back captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Sohaib Maqsood, who had scored a blazing half century in Pakistan's victory in the first match at the same venue four days earlier.
Perera then had Shahid Afridi caught and was on a hat-trick when he removed Wahab Riaz and Fawad Alam off successive deliveries. Tall Mohammad Irfan survived the hat-trick ball before Lasith Malinga clean bowled last man Junaid Khan to set up the series finale at Dambulla.
"They just took the pace off (the ball) -- especially the spinners bowled well -- and we just kept on losing wickets," Misbah said. "In the last 10 overs (during fielding) we should have restricted them, but we gave away too many runs."
Earlier, having won the toss, Mathews and Jayawardene anchored the home team after Sri Lanka was pegged back at 62-3. Jayawardene scored his second half century in four days and combined in a 122-run stand with Mathews to put the innings back on track.
Perera then carved out an 87-run partnership off just 57 balls with Mathews as Pakistan's three left-arm fast bowlers conceded 80 runs in the last six overs. Paceman Riaz claimed 4-65 and off-spinner Hafeez took 3-39.
Riaz removed Kumar Sangakkara off a short pitched delivery and had Upul Tharanga caught behind in his opening two overs. However, Mathews and Jayawardene then dominated the Pakistan bowlers, raising their second straight century stand of the series.
Leg-spinner Afridi (0-51), Pakistan's most capped ODI player with 380 matches, returned wicketless for the fifth consecutive one-day international as Jayawardene and Mathews kept rotating the strike in their 141-ball partnership.
Hafeez put the brakes on briefly when he removed Jayawardene, who hit eight fours, Prasanna (1) and Ashan Priyanjan (3) in his last three overs. Mathews hit eight fours but missed the three-figure mark when he gave a simple catch to mid-wicket in the 48th over off Riaz. Perera smashed five fours and four sixes before he was run out on the penultimate ball of the innings while going for the second run to retain the strike