Kamran Akmal smashed an unbeaten 92 off 50 balls as Pakistan came from behind to defeat India by five wickets in a warm-up match for the World Twenty20 on Monday.
Chasing India's commanding 185-3, Pakistan appeared to be out of contention when they lost five wickets by the 12th over with just 91 runs on the board at the Premadasa stadium.
But Akmal and former captain Shoaib Malik turned the game around with a brilliant unbroken stand of 95 off 46 balls that helped Pakistan beat the shell-shocked Indians with five balls to spare.
Akmal plundered six sixes, including the winning shot off seamer Irfan Pathan which sailed over the cover fence. Malik remained unbeaten on 37 off 18 balls.
For India, birthday boy Ravichandran Ashwin was the most successful bowler, scalping four wickets for 23 runs.
Chasing the competitive total, Pakistan received twin blows in the fourth over in the form of opener Imran Nazir and young Nasir Jamshed. In search of a big hit, Nazir skied a delivery from Ashwin to a running Suresh Raina at long-on. A ball later an unlucky Jamshed fell victim to an unnecessary mix up with his skipper Mohammad Hafeez as Pakistan slumped to 33 for two by the fourth over. Hafeez and wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal then joined hands and held fort for Pakistan with a 51-run stand.
Kamran adopted an aggressive approach from the onset as all the Indian bowlers faced the Pakistani stumper's wrath. Kamran welcomed Harbhajan Singh with a six over mid-off off the spinner's first delivery and then hit Yuvraj Singh for two boundaries in the next over. Harbhajan was once again at the receiving end as the Pakistani wicketkeeper-batsman smashed the Indian for two more fours in his next over.
But some erratic shots from the Pakistani batsmen brought India back into the match when, returning to the attack, Ashwin struck twice in the 10th over. Ashwin accounted for Hafeez and Shahid Afridi in a span of three balls. While Hafeez hit one straight to Sharma at long-on, Afridi's ariel shot was taken by Zaheer at long-off. Ashwin struck again in his next over as Umar Akmal lobbed one straight back to the bowler to see Pakistan in some trouble at 91 for five.
Needing 56 off 30 balls, Kamran knocked the stuffing out of pacer Laxipathy Balaji, who conceded a mammoth 32 runs off his final two overs. Kamran then hit Irfan Pathan out of the park to finish off the proceddings in an emphatic fashion.
Earlier, electing to bat Gautam Gambhir (10) and Virender Sehwag (26) stitched 41 runs for the opening stand before the former was cleaned up by Umar Gul in the fifth over. To make matters worse for India, the dangerman Sehwag departed in the next over after being unable to keep a cut down. He was caught by Shahid Afridi off Ajmal's bowling.
But Virat Kohli celebrated his ICC ODI Player of the Year award with yet another sterling knock scoring 75, while Rohit Sharma returned to form with a 40-ball 56 to power India to the challenging total. The highlight of India's innings was the 127-run fourth-wicket partnership between Kohli and Sharma that came off just 77 balls.
Kohli decorated his 47-ball stay at the crease with seven fours and two huge hits over the fence, while Sharma struck six boundaries and two maximum during his knock. Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal starred with the ball for Pakistan with figures of two 22 from his four overs.
Some 3,000 Sri Lankan fans watched the arch-rivals battle out in the middle in the only warm-up match to be beamed live by the host broadcasters of the World Twenty20 that opens on Tuesday.
"We knew that if India could post a huge total, so could we," said Pakistan captain Mohammad Hafeez. "Kamran was exceptional, and Malik's experience also helped."
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said the batting worked well, but the bowlers needed to contain runs on the easy-paced wickets.
"It was not really a bad game for us," he said. "We have got to work on a few things with our bowling."
India and Pakistan are drawn in different groups for the preliminary league, but are seeded to meet in the Super Eights round in Colombo on September 30.
In other matches, England beat Australia by nine runs, Ireland pipped Bangladesh by five runs, the West Indies slammed Afghanistan by eight wickets and South Africa overcame New Zealand by nine runs.
India: 185 for three in 20 overs (Virat Kohli not out 75, Rohit Sharma 56; Saeed Ajmal 2/22).
Pakistan: 186 for 5 in 19.1 overs (Kamran Akmal 92 not out, Shoaib Malik 37 not out, Mohammad Hafeez 38; R Ashwin 4/23).
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