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CHAMPIONS TROPHY: Calm Sarfraz takes Pakistan to semi-finals

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SUMMARY: Pakistan 237 for 7 (Sarfraz 61*, Zaman 50, Pradeep 3-60) beat Sri Lanka 236 (Dickwella 73, Junaid 3-40, Hasan 3-43, Amir 2-53) by three wickets.

Pakistan will face England in the Champions Trophy semi-finals on Wednesday after a thrilling three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in Cardiff. Junaid Khan (3-40) and Hasan Ali (3-43) impressed for Pakistan as Sri Lanka were bowled out for 236, losing four wickets for six runs. Pakistan also struggled with the bat before captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s unbeaten 61 saw them to a memorable victory.

India will face Bangladesh in the other semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday. Despite making hard work of Monday’s win, it is a remarkable comeback from Pakistan after they lost their opening game of the tournament to rivals India.

If they can overcome England in Cardiff, Pakistan will contest their first Champions Trophy final on Sunday. It is a disappointing end to the tournament for Sri Lanka, who failed to build on their stunning win over India last week.

After losing Danushka Gunathilaka, Kusal Mendis and Dinesh Chandimal before the end of the 16th over, Sri Lanka recovered to 161-3 with captain Angelo Mathews looking settled at the crease. However, in a spell of left-arm seam bowling which at times was reminiscent of Wasim Akram, Mohammad Amir and Junaid turned the game on its head.

Lasith Malinga didn’t take the defeat lightly

Amir took the wicket of Mathews (39), who bottom-edged a pull shot to send the ball crashing into the stumps. Dhananjaya de Silva, making his first appearance of the tournament, was caught behind for just one after a fine delivery from Junaid found some movement off the turf.

As his team-mates faltered, opener Niroshan Dickwella had provided some stability for Sri Lanka. He paced his innings nicely, scoring four boundaries before he departed for 73 courtesy of a tremendous one-handed diving catch by Sarfraz behind the stumps off the bowling of Amir.

Then Thisara Perera (1) edged Junaid to slip after swinging wildly and Sri Lanka had collapsed to 167-7. Aside from that game-changing spell in the middle overs, it was a professional performance from Pakistan’s other two seamers. Debutant Faheem Ashraf picked up two Sri Lankan wickets, while Hasan Ali produced another terrific bowling display.

As Sri Lanka looked to be heading towards a score of around 250, Hasan – the pick of the bowlers in Pakistan’s win over South Africa at Edgbaston – took the wicket of Suranga Lakmal (26) with a superb slower-ball off-cutter which just clipped the bail.

Pakistan crawled over the line thanks to a competition-record eighth-wicket partnership of 75 between captain Sarfraz and Amir. Their openers were on the charge in the first 10 overs of the run-chase, Fakhar Zahman scoring his maiden one-day half-century off just 36 balls.

Fakhar’s entertaining knock came to an end when he hooked Nuwan Pradeep to deep square leg. His wicket sparked a period of panic for Pakistan as Azhar Ali (34), Babar Azam (10) and Mohammad Hafeez (1) soon followed.

The experienced Shoaib Malik (10) gave his wicket away, advancing down the track and trying to pull a slower-ball bouncer from Lasith Malinga, only to glove it to the wicketkeeper Dickwella. At 162-7, Pakistan looked to be heading towards a somewhat humiliating loss before Sarfraz played an important and steady knock, with the help of Amir who finished unbeaten on 28.

Sarfraz was reprieved twice thanks to some woeful fielding by Sri Lanka – the Pakistan captain was dropped on 38 and 41 – but he hit the winnings runs with a ramp shot to the third man boundary. (BBC Sport)

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