I’ve known for a while that Junaid Khan was a very good bowler. Specifically I’ve known this since he played for Lancashire in the FLT20 and was probably the single biggest reason why we made it to Finals Day. (And his subsequent absence probably cost us the semi-final, but there was nothing to be done about that.) So I like to see him do well, especially in the longer form. And did he do well! He took 5-38 as Sri Lanka were skittled for 197, and Pakistan were without Amir and Asif!

Pakistan won the toss and rather surprisingly elected to field first on a flat deck and in very hot conditions. (Though the match is in the UAE, so all conditions are very hot.) Sri Lanka, however, never got going and went into lunch on 50-1. Khan was actually the second change bowler (Mohammad Hafeez, a spinner, came on first) and did not take a wicket until the middle of the 49th over when he had Mahela Jayawardene caught at first slip. The wicket made Sri Lanka 112-5, with the first four having been shared around the other three main bowlers. Very soon thereafter Khan was on a hat trick. He clean bowled Prasanna Jayawardene with a brilliant yorker (so familiar to those who watched Lancs in the FLT20 this season) off the last ball of the 49th over to give him two wickets in four deliveries and then began the 50th over by trapping Ragnara Herath LBW. This was the nadir of the Sri Lankan innings with the score 114-7. Khan didn’t get his hat-trick and Angelo Mathews, the only batsman to look fluent in the innings, steadied the ship with Suranga Lakmal in a partnership of 54. Gul ultimately broke the partnership and Khan quickly blew away the last two with pace.

It’s only the first day of the first match of a series of course, but I expect England will be looking on with some interest. The England v Pakistan series last summer belonged to the bowlers, but I certainly didn’t think the UAE leg would. That may still be the case, of course, as I expect England to bat better than Sri Lanka did. (Not that Sri Lanka batted abysmally, though it wasn’t great, more that England are simply more talented.) But it does mean that England will have to bat sensibly and cannot take big runs for granted. The bowlers will certainly have their work cut out for them and this shows that if the batsman lose their concentration England could find themselves up against it very quickly.

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