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The pacers gave Pakistan a blazing start, reducing Sri Lanka to 36-3 inside six overs, after Babr Azam asked the Lankans to bat first.

Naseem Shah, who was rested in Pakistan’s final game in the Super four which was against Sri Lanka, went through the defences of Kusal Mendis in the third ball of the innings, sending the opener back to the dressing room for a golden duck.

Haris Rauf didn’t let Sri Lanka recover from the early setback by taking the wickets of Pathum Nissanka (eight off 11 balls) and Danushka Gunathilaka (one off four balls) to put Pakistan on top after the powerplay.

While wickets kept falling at one end in the powerplay, Dhananjaya de Silva kept batting with a positive intent at the other end, hitting four boundaries to reach 28 off 20 balls.

The Pakistan skipper then handed the ball to part-time spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, who struck straight away by taking a sharp return catch from Dhananjaya’s bat to reduce Sri Lanka to 53-4 after 7.4 overs.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka (two off three balls) also failed to deliver in the final, losing his stumps to leg-spinner Shadab Khan in the very next over.

Sri Lanka had lost half their side for just 58 runs and were in desperate need for a partnership. Rajapaksa and Hasaranga stood up for their side, initiating a counterattack that brought Sri Lanka back in the match.

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The duo added 58 runs off 36 balls for the sixth wicket. Hasaranga was the aggressor of the two, smashing five fours and one six.

Hasaranga’s departed when his attempt to complete a hat-trick of boundaries against Haris backfired and he edged the ball to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.

But Rajapaksa remained undeterred and completed his half-century in the 18th over.

Rajapaksa was also aided by Pakistan fielders, getting dropped in the 17th and 18th over at the boundary, the second of which ended up being a six.

Rajapaksa struck two sixes off Naseem to close out the innings as Sri Lanka ended the first innings as the happier of the two sides.

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