Hasan Ali was the pick of the bowlers with a career-best 3 for 23. © Getty Images

Hasan Ali was the pick of the bowlers with a career-best 3 for 23. © Getty Images

Hasan Ali, Pakistan’s most promising bowler, was once again at the forefront of his team’s win, his three wickets setting up a comfortable seven-wicket victory over Sri Lanka in the first Twenty20 international in Abu Dhabi on Thursday (October 26).

Pakistan sent Sri Lanka packing for 102 in 18.3 overs, with six bowlers taking wickets. Hasan, who had previously impressed in the One-Day International series which Pakistan won 5-0, was the pick of the bowlers with a career-best 3 for 23. His previous best of 3 for 49 came against Windies in Dubai last year.

Mohammad Hafeez (2 for 10) and Usman Shinwari (2 for 20) also chipped in, while Imad Wasim, Fahim Ashraf and Shadab Khan grabbed a wicket apiece.

Pakistan, too, lost two early wickets in the chase with Fakhar Zaman (six) and Babar Azam (one) dismissed inside six overs, but a small target never looked beyond the side.

Shoaib Malik (42 not out off 31 balls) and Hafeez (25 off 23 balls) forged a 39-run stand to steer the side to victory in 17.2 overs and take them to a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

Sri Lanka were bowled out for their second lowest total against Pakistan, hardly improving on their 99 all out they made in Hambantota five years ago.

Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s skipper, attributed the win to team effort. “This was a complete team effort and I am happy that our bowling is doing well,” said Sarfraz. “We know Twenty20 cricket is all about hitting so we have to stop that and take wickets and we did that.”

The new-look batting side failed to get going and lost their last eight wickets for 51 runs. Sri Lanka lost Dilshan Munaweera as early as the third ball of the innings, cleaned up by Wasim. Danushka Gunathilaka (18) upped the tempo with some improvised shots but fell to Shinwari. Sadeera Samarawickrama (23) and Ashan Priyanjan (12) added 22 runs, but neither could carry on.

Thisara Perera, Sri Lanka’s most experienced batsman, surprisingly held himself back until the fall of the seventh wicket and it was too late by then to give the innings the much needed impetus. Perera did hit a boundary but holed out to Shinwari for eight. It was left to Seekkuge Prasanna to score a run-a-ball 23 with two sixes which took the score past 100. The whole innings featured only seven boundaries and two sixes.

Perera, Sri Lanka’s stand-in captain, hoped his team scores more runs in the next two matches. “We didn’t score runs and we need to do smart things if we need to win the next two matches,” he said. “Pakistan’s bowling is one of the best I have seen in the last two years so we have to do smart things.”

This is the 23rd time Pakistan have bowled out Sri Lanka in a T20I, the most by any team.

The second match will also be played in Abu Dhabi on Friday.