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Kulasekara keeps his cool

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An unbroken eighth-wicket stand between Thisara Perera and Nuwan Kulasekara proved decisive as Sri Lanka claimed victory by 37 runs in today’s opening Twenty20 international against Pakistan in Hambantota.

The hosts, who won the toss, were rocking on 89 for seven in the 17th over when the tail-end duo were paired at the crease, but Perera’s 16-ball 32 helped Sri Lanka to 132.

Thisara Perera

Thisara Perera blasts a pivotal 32 not out from 16 balls to set up Sri Lanka's 37-run victory in the first of two Twenty20 internationals between the sides

Pakistan then lost new T20 skipper Mohammad Hafeez and Shakeel Ansar to the first two balls of their reply before Angelo Mathews claimed 2-8 from four overs, including a maiden, as the visitors limped to 95 all out inside 18 overs.

Pakistan’s day started well enough with Sohail Tanvir, who took 3-12, striking in his first three overs. Openers Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan went via skied catches before Kumar Sangakkara played on for 19 from 12 deliveries.

Lahiru Thirimanne’s 30 helped Sri Lanka to recover in tandem with underwhelming contributions by Dinesh Chandimal, Mathews and Kaushal Lokuarachchi, but it took the arrival of Perera and Kulasekara to forge momentum.

Perera smashed two sixes and two fours in a lively cameo while Kulasekara stayed alive long enough to help his partner build a match-winning score.

Pakistan’s reply began dismally when Hafeez and Ansar found Dilshan at backward point.

The economical Mathews removed Khalid Latif and Shoaib Malik thanks to stunning catches respectively from wicketkeeper Sangakkara and Perera at third-man.

Umar Akmal, one of only two tourists to reach double figures, was caught behind off Kulasekara for 12. Off-spinner Sachithra Senanayake soon snared Shahid Afridi, who edged to short third-man, and Tanvir was run out later in the over.

Ahmed Shehzad resisted with 36, featuring three fours and a maximum, until edging Senanayake behind to effectively end Pakistan’s hopes. Lasith Malinga and Perera also struck twice.

The two-match T20 series concludes on Sunday.