ISLAMABAD - Green caps’ team work provided Pakistan 2-1 lead against Sri Lanka in the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series, and if they continue it, they can not only win the series but also book berth in the next year’s Champions Trophy.

The top order provided the team sterling start and then all the batsmen batted brilliantly till the end, therefore, they managed to score 300 plus total. For the first time, all the top six batsmen managed to score 35 plus runs. Azhar Ali also became the first Pakistani to score 1000 ODI runs in 23 innings, great Viv Richards holds the fastest record, who scored 1000 runs in 21 innings.

The superb performance of green caps was marred by the crowd, which never be expected from Sri Lankan crowd, which is known for its supportive behavior while Pakistan also enjoy highly cordial relations with Sri Lanka. A few trouble makers must have kept in mind that it was just because of Pakistan's all-out help and support that Sri Lankans managed to get rid of terrorism menace and defeated Tamil Tigers, who had made their lives miserable. It is always Indian crowd, which is known for non-supporting behavior and creating trouble. Pakistan-Sri Lankan matches are always played in cordial and friendly atmosphere and both countries’ players give tremendous respect to each other. It is hoped Sri Lankan authorities will take that issue very seriously and ensure such ugly and highly unacceptable scenes will not be repeated again. The crowd’s unsporting behavior left very bad taste which could harm cordial relations of both the nations.

After winning the toss, Azhar Ali once again opted to bat first. Ahmed Shahzad and the captain started the innings cautiously. Ahmed missed a number of deliveries in the beginning and once again wasted golden opportunity of scoring big runs and gifted his wicket in the plate. After batting so well, Azhar just played a very irresponsible stroke, which led to his downfall. Hats off to M Hafeez, who despite under enormous pressure, lived up to the occasion and ensured Pakistan team put very decent score on the board while Sarfraz Ahmed also batted sensibly.

The team could have posted a total well beyond 350, had they not wasted too many precious deliveries in the middle of the innings. Pakistan team managed to score only 116 runs in 12.4 overs, as they were well set to launch assault in the last overs. When they had quite a few wickets in hand, they could post 375 or more on the board, as they had posted 200 in 37.2 overs with seven wickets in hand.

Shoaib Malik is enjoying form of his life as runs are flowing thick and fast from his bat. It was quite encouraging to witness the way Pakistani batsmen handled Malinga, who was given a real bashing and same was witnessed in case of Pathirana, who was very impressive in the second ODI. The total of 316 was a very daunting total to defend.

Pakistani bowlers bowled brilliantly. Yasir Shah is getting matured with each passing day as he was completely unplayable and kept all the Lankan batsmen in check and took his carrier-best tally. Debutant Immad Wasim was also very impressive as he filled Hafeez’ void quite well. Pakistan fielding was once again was not good as Azhar dropped an easy catch but Anwar Ali took a superb catch, arguably the catch of the series. Last math hero Kusal Perera was looking hapless in front of Pakistani bowling which completely dominated the Lankan batsmen with the exception of Thirimanne.

Now the momentum is once again with green caps. They must not be relaxed as complacency can cost them berth in Champions Trophy. Waqar Younis must focus on improving fielding and give top priority to fielding especially catching department while the batsmen must carry on good work in the remaining matches. Only lack of concentration stands between Pakistan and series victory. Azhar Ali must buck up his players and prepare them for the crucial matches. The lenient approach can be very fatal for Pakistan's ambitions of playing in the Champions Trophy so they must carry on winning momentum to win the series and brighten their chance of qualifying for the Champions Trophy.