A match-winning sixth-wicket partnership from Kamran Akmal and Shoaib Malik spurred Pakistan to an impressive five-wicket victory over India in a World T20 warm-up match at the Premadasa Stadium.
Given a stiff target of 186 to chase down, Pakistan started well, then bungled the good work of the openers, before the pyrotechnics of Kamran Akmal, who made an unbeaten 92 off 50 balls, and Shoaib Malik (37 in 18) guided Pakistan to victory past their arch-rivals.
Pakistan got themselves in trouble after a solid start, going from 84 for two to 91 for five, after Mohammed Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal had thrown their wickets away in quick succession; R Ashwin picking up all three wickets, with the off-spinner ending up on four for 23 from his four overs.
However, the 95-run partnership off just 37 balls between Akmal and Malik blew India away. Akmal, often criticized for his inept wicketkeeping, was at his imperious best with the bat, scoring boundaries and smashing balls into the stands at will, finishing the game off with a huge six, as Pakistan took a moral victory going into the World T20, which begins with hosts Sri Lanka taking on Zimbabwe at Hambantota on Tuesday evening.
In the afternoon, India, after winning the toss and choosing to bat, began their innings well, with Virender Sehwag immediately catching fire like only he can.
Sehwag, received a few gifts from the Pakistani bowlers, particularly Maohammed Sami, straying onto leg-stump, allowing the Delhi Dasher to pick it off at will for boundaries.
His opening partner Gautam Gambhir went for a 16-ball 10, when he played on while attempting a pull off Umar Gul's bowling.
Sehwag typically took on Saeed Ajmal in his first over -- Sami dropping the batsman off the first ball, after having taken the catch near the rope, initially, but letting it go thinking he was going to cross the boundary line. Then in the very next ball, Sehwag tried to cut Ajmal from the middle stump, but only found Shahid Afridi at backward point, with the all-rounder taking a nice diving catch and dismissing the dashing opener for a 14-ball 26.
Virat Kohli, the man who can do nothing wrong, and Rohit Sharma put in a 127-run alliance that took India to 185 for three. Kohli (75 in 47), as always, playing some wonderful strokes all over the pitch; his mastery of the batting craft just seems to be getting better and better. Sharma, who made 56 in 40 balls, took some time to settle down, but once he got his eye in, the Mumbai Indian brought his own wonderful array of shots, a pull over square leg that reached the second tier of the stands, and a swat on the up, particularly easy on the eye.
India were laying onto all of Pakistan's bowler's bar Ajmal and Gul, both of whom finished with impressive figures. Ajmal sent Sharma back to the pavilion in the first ball of the penultimate over of the innings, allowing Yuvraj Singh to get a hit out in the middle, albeit for only a few balls.
Gul and Ajmal combined well, to restrict India to just 13 runs in the last two overs, when it looked like the 2007 winners would kick on to 200, and the eventual 185 proved to be not enough, with Akmal plundering the bowling.
India begin their quest to win back the World T20 title against Afghanistan in Colombo on Wednesday.