Mirpur (Dhaka): Captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal shared a 152-run stand to guide Pakistan to a six-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup here Thursday, getting a bonus point in the process and virtually qualifying for the final.
It was an allround effort by Pakistan, who dismissed Sri Lanka for 188 and then got the runs in 39.5 overs at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium.
Misbah (72 not out) and Akmal (77) took the team home from a precarious 33 for three after fast bowler Aizaz Cheema (4-43) and off-spinner Saeed Ajmal (3-27) restricted Sri Lanka to a paltry total.
Pakistan were in a spot of bother after losing Nasir Jamshed (18), Mohammad Hafeez (11) and Younis Khan (2) in quick successions but captain cool Misbah and the stylish Akmal ensured there were no further hiccups.
Akmal showed his class, finding the boundaries all over the ground against an ordinary looking Lankan attack with their premier bowler Lasith Malinga (0-44) proving expensive yet again.
Akmal was particularly hard on Mailnga, smashing him for three fours in the 19th over. The 21-year-old struck seven fours and two sixes in his 72-ball effort.
Misbah, as he so often does, lent stability to the chase. His 93-ball knock saw nine boundaries and one over the ropes.
Earlier, Sri Lanka were in trouble from the outset, but a gritty 96-run stand for the fifth wicket between Kumar Sangakkara (71) and Upul Tharanga (57) saved them more blushes.
Cheema, playing his 11th ODI, was plundered for 17 runs in his first over but came back strongly to equal his best figures. Cheema was well supported by fellow pacer Umar Gul (2-20).
Gul bowled accurately and did not allow the Sri Lankan batsman to dominate the proceedings, while on the other end Cheema chipped away with wickets.
Ajmal bowled with great craft and guile and the Sri Lankan batsmen were all at sea. The off-spinner mesmerised the Lankan tailenders, who gave away their wicket with Sangakkara fighting a lone war at the other end.
Besides the top three batsmen and Tharanga none of the Sri Lankan players managed to get into double figures. Pakistan fielded extremely well and catching was of the highest level.
India-Pakistan final could be a real possibility if Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men beat Bangladesh Friday. Sri Lanka are almost out of the race after losses against Pakistan and India.