Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik came together at 58 for 3 in 14 overs, but didn’t allow Sri Lanka a breakthrough from there. © Getty Images

Babar Azam and Shoaib Malik came together at 58 for 3 in 14 overs, but didn’t allow Sri Lanka a breakthrough from there. © Getty Images

Sri Lanka’s plight with the bat continued as Hasan Ali and the Pakistan spinners once again guided their team to another one-sided win, this time by seven wickets with 11 overs to spare in the fourth One-Day International in Sharjah on Friday (October 20).

Hasan took 3 for 37 to cap his rise to the top spot among bowlers in the ODI rankings, while Imad Wasim had 2 for 13 and Shadab Khan had 2 for 29. Sri Lanka were kept to a paltry 173 all out in 43.4 overs, and despite losing three early wickets, the target was never beyond Pakistan’s reach.

Hasan said it was his childhood dream and goal to become the top-ranked bowler. “I had set my goal to become world No. 1 and today I have achieved my dream,” he said. “It was my goal when I started international cricket last year.”

“It’s a great win and no praise is enough for Hasan,” said Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan captain. “The way he is bowling and has become world number one … I pray that he keeps bowling like this. The way our bowling is doing for the last four-five months … we can say that ours is one of the best bowling [attacks] in the world.”

The home team duly sealed a 4-0 lead in just 39 overs, with only one ODI remaining in the series.

Neither their coach’s frustration with his wards’ showing, nor extra time in the nets brought dividends for Sri Lanka. They have now gone 10 months without putting up a total of 250-plus in ODIs, with the last one coming against Zimbabwe in the fourth match of a five-game series at home where they put up 300 for 6.

This was Sri Lanka’s 11th loss in a row in ODIs, just three shy of their worst run of 14 in 1987. If they lose the fifth and final ODI, also in Sharjah, on Monday then they might be hard-pressed to stop the rut. Their next series is against India, who have been very dominant, especially at home.

This was also Sri Lanka’s sixth loss against Pakistan in Sharjah. The last time they beat the Pakistanis in the city was in 2002.

Sri Lanka had a glimmer of hope when Pakistan lost three early wickets, but Babar Azam (69 not out off 101) and Shoaib Malik (69 not out off 81), came together for a dominating, unbroken 119-run partnership for the fourth wicket in 25 overs. The result, in any case, was never in doubt after yet another dismal batting performance by Sri Lanka.

Malik hit three sixes and two fours, while Azam hit five fours. The two came together at 58 for 3 in 14 overs, but didn’t allow Sri Lanka a breakthrough from there.

The visiting team’s batting once again lacked purpose and application. From the second ball of the second over, they kept losing wickets and ended up with another below-par total.

Sri Lanka lost Upul Tharanga, their in-form skipper, to Usman Shinwari, the debutant getting a big wicket with his second ball in international cricket. Niroshan Dickwella tried to release the pressure by hitting three boundaries and a six in his 16-ball 22, but once he was dismissed and Dinesh Chandimal ran himself out for 16, the innings faltered. Sri Lanka lost their last eight wickets for 114.

Things could have been worse but Lahiru Thirimanne showed some resistance during a 94-ball 62 that had four boundaries. He added 40 for the fifth wicket with Milinda Siriwardana, and then 43 for the eighth wicket with Akila Dananjaya, who made 18. In the end Suranga Lakmal’s 23 not out took Sri Lanka past the 150 mark, but it was never going to be enough.