A century on debut by opener Imam-ul-Haq helped Pakistan beat Sri Lanka by seven wickets in the third one-day international in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, taking an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series.
Paceman Hasan Ali took a career best 5-34 to dismiss Sri Lanka for 208 in 48.2 overs before Imam-ul-Haq scored his debut century.
Imam, whose uncle Inzamam is chief selector for Pakistan, became only the second batsman from his country and 13th overall to score a hundred on ODI debut before he finally fell for 100 off 125 balls.
The 21-year-old hit two sixes and five fours as the nominal hosts wrapped up the series with two matches to spare.
Saleem Elahi was the only other Pakistani to hit a debut hundred, also against Sri Lanka at Gujranwala in 1995.
But Imam could have missed that milestone as he was reprieved on 89, having been given out caught behind by Niroshan Dickwella off Lahiru Gamage.
As he was walking back, television umpire Richard Kettleborough found the ball had touched the ground before reaching wicketkeeper Dickwella’s gloves. A relieved Imam returned to the crease and completed his hundred.
Pakistan had brought in uncapped Imam in place of opener Ahmed Shehzad, who failed to perform with the bat in the opening two matches of the series.
With a low target to chase, Imam made a solid start alongside Fakhar Zaman in an opening stand of 78. Zaman fell for 29, stumped by Dickwella off spinner Jeffrey Vandersay while Babar Zaman was bowled by Gamage for 30.
Mohammad Hafeez remained not out on 34, scoring the winning single.
During the first innings, energetic seamer Hasan Ali became the quickest player to reach 50 one-day international wickets for Pakistan as Sri Lanka were dismissed for 208.
The 23-year-old took a career-best 5-34 and was ably assisted by leg-spinner Shadab Khan (2-37) as Sri Lanka, who won the toss and batted, lost their last nine wickets for only 106 runs.
Sri Lanka were off to a solid start but faltered against a determined Pakistan bowling attack as they lost wickets in quick succession in the middle of the innings.
Sri Lanka skipper Upul Tharanga (61) and Niroshan Dickwella (18) put on 59 for the first wicket, but from 102-1 in the 26th over their innings was derailed by Pakistani bowlers.
Shadab, man-of-the-match for his 52 not out and 3-47 in the second game on Monday, had Dinesh Chandimal (19) leg-before and Tharanga caught in the deep.
Tharanga, who hit a brilliant 112 not out in the previous match, hit five boundaries during his 80-ball knock.
Hasan, who had given Pakistan the early breakthrough with Dickwella’s wicket, removed Chamara Kapugedera (18), Milinda Siriwardana (two) and Jeffrey Vandersay (nought) to complete 50 wickets in his 24th ODI.
The previous record was held by legendary paceman Waqar Younis, who took 27 ODIs to reach the mark.
Hasan’s previous best bowling figures were 5-38 against the West Indies in Guyana earlier this year.
Lahiru Thirimanne (28) and Thisara Perera (38) took Sri Lanka past the 200 mark.
Pakistan now have an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series after winning the first match by 83 runs in Dubai and a 32-run victory in Abu Dhabi.
The latest defeat becomes Sri Lanka’s 10th in a row. For Pakistan, it was the seventh consecutive win in ODIs and the ninth victory in the last 11 matches.
The fourth and fifth ODIs will be played in Sharjah on October 20 and 23. The two teams will also play three T20 internationals, the first two in Abu Dhabi (October 26 and 27) and the last in Lahore (October 29). – (AFP)