Azam and seamers spur Pakistan to 83-run victory
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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Pakistan rode on Babar Azam's century and brilliant bowling by its seamers upfront to notch a convincing 83-run victory against Sri Lanka in the first one-day international on Friday.
Azam, who could total only 39 runs in Pakistan's 2-0 loss in test series, returned to form with 103 off 131 balls and Shoaib Malik swelled Pakistan total to 292-6 by smashing 81 off 61 deliveries after being sent into bat.
Seamers Hasan Ali (3-36) and Rumman Raees (3-49) snared six wickets in between them before Lahiru Thirimanne (53) and Akila Dananjaya (50 not out) delayed the inevitable and carried Sri Lanka to 209-8.
"When you lose one series, the first match of the next series becomes very important, credit to the boys," Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said.
"We've got a lot of bowling options. This bodes well for us. The way we've done today, we'll look to carry this template forward."
Earlier, Fakhar Zaman (43) and Mohammad Hafeez (32) couldn't convert good starts before Azam and Malik dominated Sri Lanka bowling in a 139-run stand with a bit of luck.
Azam was dropped on 42 and could have been out caught behind off legspinner Akila Dananjaya soon after reaching 50 but Sri Lanka earlier squandered its only video review.
Dananjaya thought to have Azam caught by wicketkeeper down the legside off his first delivery only to see the television referral going in batsman's
Azam held down one end and completed his half century off 80 balls before notching his sixth ODI century and first against Sri Lanka off 128 balls with five fours.
Malik batted with lot of freedom, hitting two sixes and five fours and kept pushing up the scoring rate through brilliant running between the wickets with Azam as Sri Lanka struggled to contain runs in later stage of Pakistan innings.
Sri Lanka, which has been whitewashed by South Africa and then by India at home in 2017, struggled to pace it run-chase against both Raees and Hasan.
Raees dismissed Niroshan Dickwella (19) and Dinesh Chandimal (4) before captain captain Upul Tharanga was clean bowled by Hafeez while attempting a needless pull shot against the off-spinner.
Sri Lanka stuttered to 67-5 when Ali removed Kusal Mendis (2) and Milinda Siriwardana off successive deliveries as Raees returned and had Thirimanne trapped leg before wicket.
Dananjaya and Jeffrey Vandersay (25) put on the best partnership of the innings by contributing 68 runs for the eighth wicket but couldn't prevent Sri Lanka from going down to its eighth consecutive defeat in ODIs.
"Pakistan batted really well. At one stage, we thought we could restrict them to below 270," Tharanga said. "We haven't batted to potential in the last few series ... it's time we deliver."
The second match of the series will be played at Abu Dhabi on Monday.