Kamran Akmal smashed a blistering unbeaten 92 as Pakistan dented arch-rival India's confidence ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 with a thrilling five-wicket win in their last warm-up game here today.
India posted a competitive 185 for three riding on Virat Kohli's unbeaten 75, but their listless death bowling allowed Pakistan to overhaul the target with five balls to spare at the R Premadasa Stadium.
At one stage, the Pakistanis were in a spot of bother at 91 for five, but the dimimutive Akmal launched a fierce counter-attack and together with experienced Shoaib Malik added 95 runs off 50 just balls to see the side home. For India, birthday boy Ravichandran Ashwin was the most successful bowler, scalping four wickets for 23 runs.
Earlier, Kohli celebrated his ICC ODI Player of the Year award with yet another sterling knock, while 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. 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.
Kamran, however, was in no mood to give up without a fight and clobbered Zaheer for two consecutive sixes in the 15th over to bring up his fifty in style. In experienced Malik, Kamran found an able partner. The duo went about their business sensibly.
While Kamran was at his devastating best, Malik adopted a calm approach. Needing 56 off 30 balls, Kamran kncoked 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 part 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 then came the in-form Kohli and Sharma, who combined together beautifully to raise the century stand, which laid the foundation of India's score.
The duo, however, started cautiously before opening up. Both Kohli and Sharma initially started with ones and twos but didn't waste any single opportunity to hit boundaries and sixes when opportunities came their way.
They were especially severe on leg-spinner Shahid Afridi who gave away 41 runs from his four overs. Afridi gave away 15 runs off his final over, courtesy a four by Kohli and one six and a boundary from Sharma's willow.
Not only Afridi, other Pakistani bowlers too had to bear the brunt of Kohli and Sharma's destructive moods as the duo scored boundaries and sixes at will towards the business end of the innings.
The duo, however, brought up their half centuries in contrasting fashion. While Kohli struck a boundary to notch up his fifty, Sharma found the landmark with a single.
The century-stand partnership between Kohli and Sharma finally ended in the 19th over when Ajmal went through the later's defence, but not before the duo had already inflicted serious damage on Pakistan.