Sarfraz Ahmed produced a superb captain's innings following a top-order collapse to see Pakistan into the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy with a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka at Cardiff on Monday.
Pakistan, chasing a seemingly modest 237 to win, slumped to 162 for seven. But Sarfraz's 61 not out and Mohammad Amir's 28 not out saw Pakistan home with 31 balls to spare after they shared an unbroken eighth-wicket partnership of 75. Man-of-the-match Sarfraz, crucially dropped twice, ended the contest when he uppercut Lasith Malinga for four. It was his fifth boundary in 79 balls and led the joyous wicket-keeper to run a semi-circle round the ground. Pakistan will return to Sophia Gardens for a last-four clash with tournament hosts England in Cardiff on Wednesday. Earlier, Pakistan induced a middle-order collapse as Sri Lanka slumped to 236 all out. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka had to win on Monday to join already qualified title-holders India from Group B in the knockout stages of a tournament featuring the world's top eight one-day international sides. India will play Bangladesh in Thursday's second semi-final at Edgbaston, with the final at the Oval on Sunday. In what was a 'must-win match' for both sides, Sri Lanka were dismissed for 236 ─ well below the modern-day ODI 'par' total of 300. And it seemed like it wasn't going to be their day when Pakistan opener Azhar Ali was dropped on nought by Asela Gunaratne at point. But fellow opener Fakhar Zaman was far more dynamic, hitting three fours in as many balls off the unorthodox Malinga. In just his second match at this level, the left-handed Fakhar completed a 34-ball fifty. But, two balls later, he fell for exactly 50 when a top-edged hook off Nuwan Pradeep was caught by Gunaratne at fine leg. Pakistan, then 92 for one, saw three wickets go down in a hurry.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Hafeez both fell to tame legside catches before Azhar's painstaking 34 ended when he fended at paceman Suranga Lakmal and Kusal Mendis held an awkward catch at a wide slip position. Shoaib Malik (11) then feathered a catch behind following an attempted pull off Malinga. Fahim Ashraf thrillingly hooked Malinga over long leg for six but the ODI debutant was run out for a run-a-ball 15 when bowler Thisara Perera deflected a Sarfraz drive onto the stumps at the non-striker's end.