Captain Sanath Jayasuriya led from the front with a rollicking unbeaten 102 as hosts Sri Lanka consolidated their position for a semi-final berth with an emphatic eight-wicket victory against Pakistan in the inaugural match of the ICC Champions Trophy at Colombo today.
Chasing a target of 201 for victory, the hosts lost two wickets in quick succession but the seasoned duo of Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva (66 not out) steered the team to victory with 13.5 overs to spare in what turned out to be a lop-sided floodlit Group-D encounter.
Jayasuriya, who was uncertain of playing till the morning of the match because of a shoulder injury, showed no signs of discomfort as he send the Pakistanis on a leather hunt with some cracking shots on both sides of the wicket.
The third wicket pair of Jayasuriya and De Silva stitched an unbroken 156 run partnership to take the game away from the hapless Pakistanis who raised hopes of a spirited fight back by sending back Marvan Atapattu (8) and Kumar Sangakarra (0) early to reduce the hosts to 45 for two at one stage.
With this resounding victory, Sri Lanka have virtualy assured themselves of a semi-final slot with minnows Holland being the third team in the group. They will play Holland on September 16.
Earlier, electing to bat, Pakistan never really recovered from early jolts and were bundled out for 200 in 49.4 overs with veteran Saeed Anwar (52) and newcomer Misbah Ul-Haq (47) being the notable scorers.
It was yet another abject batting display by the Pakistanis and it was thanks to a gutsy effort by veteran Saeed Anwar that the team could reach the 200 mark after having slumped to 17 for three at one stage.
The Sri Lankan run chase began on a sedate note as Jayasurya looked a trifle shaky in the initial stages with the seasoned Wasim Akram, who worked up a tidy spell, troubling him on a few occasions.
But the flamboyant opener gradually grew in confidence and unleashed a few delightful strokes on both sides of the wicket, defying a shoulder injury which had kept him out of action for some time.
The opening pair of Jayasuriya and Marvan Atapattu, who was quite content in giving as much strike to his partner, put on 44 runs for the first wicket before Atapattu returned to the pavilion trying to steal a suicidal run. Atapattu pushed the ball behind the bowler and set out for a run but failed to reach the safety of his crease as Abdur Razzaq smartly picked the ball and dislodged the stumps at the non-striker's end with a direct hit.
Kumar Sangakkara, who joined the action after the first wicket, joined Atapattu in the dressing room as he was trapped leg before wicket for a duck with a gem of a delivery from Akram.
Akram got rid of Sangakarra with a vicious incoming delivery which trapped the batsman plumb in front of the wicket and the hosts suddenly found themselves in trouble at 45 for two.
But the two old pros --Jayasuriya and de Silva, who has cemented his position in the team with a few sparkling knocks in recent times, ensured that there were not further setbacks.
After the initial rustiness, Jayasuriya seemed to be in no discomfort at all as he dispatched the loose balls to the boundary with consummate ease on what looked to be a good batting track.
The dashing opener made his intentions clear by spanking Waqar Younis for two consecutive boundaries capitalising on the field restrictions in the first 15 overs. De Silva was also in a punishing mood picking up tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar for special treatment.
Jayasuriya notched up his half century as he glided the ball towards the third man region for a single off Akhtar but was lucky to get a reprieve soon after.
The Sri Lankan captain was droped by Misbah ul-Haq on 51 in the deep cover area off Abdur Razzaq much to the dismay of the Pakistanis who were desperate to carve out a victory and keep their hopes alive.
Jayasuriya also had the distinction of crossing the 8000 runs milestone in the shorter version of the game in his 271st match, thus becoming only the second Sri Lankan and the eighth in the world to achieve the feat.
The stocky De Silva looked quite comfortable at the middle as he went about collecting the runs at a brisk pace as the islanders piled up the misery on the hapless Pakistanis.
The Sri Lankan captain notched up his 13th century in one-dayers much to delight of a capacity crowd who cheered every run by the home team.
The Pakistanis, who have been under tremendous pressure after their indifferent performances in Tangiers and Nairobi in recent times, were outplayed in all departments of the game.
Captain Waqar Younis employed an attacking field hoping to make inroads into the strong Lankan batting line up but without much success.
With no established spinner in their ranks, the Pakistanis found it difficult to stem the run flow after both Jayasuriya and De Silva had got their eye in. Younis, who proved a trifle expensive in his opening spell, brought in spinner Shahid Afridi in the 16th over but he could not break the partnership which was assuming dangerous proportions.
De Silva, who has been in very good form, also completed his half century as the home team tightened the noose on their opponents.