DAMBULLA: Seamers Thilan Thushara and Nuwan Kulasekera ripped through Pakistan’s top order as Sri Lanka won the first One-Day International by 36 runs on Thursday.
Left-armer Thushara finished with 3-29 and Kulasekera took 2-30 as Pakistan struggled against Sri Lanka’s 232/9 and were bowled out for 196 in 44.4 overs at the Rangiri International Stadium.
The tourists, beaten 2-0 in the preceding Test series, slipped to 134/8 before tailenders Umar Gul and Mohammad Aamer boosted the total with a rollicking ninth-wicket stand of 62 runs.
Gul top-scored for Pakistan with 33 off 21 balls, including four boundaries in one over from fast bowler Lasith Malinga. Teenager Aamer made 23.
The pair took the total to 196/8 when both batsmen fell in the space of two deliveries to hand Sri Lanka the lead in the five-match series.
Aamer was run out by a direct throw from Mahela Jayawardene, before Gul was bowled by Malinga next ball.
Earlier, Sri Lanka recovered from their own top order failure to post a competitive 232/9.
The hosts had collapsed to 131/6 by the 34th over after Pakistan captain Younus Khan won the toss and elected to field in overcast conditions.
All-rounder Angelo Mathews (43) led the late revival, with the last four Sri Lankan wickets adding 101 valuable runs before the 50 overs ran out.
Star spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, who missed the preceding Test series with a knee injury, marked his return with an aggressive 32 off 15 balls that included four boundaries and a six.
Sri Lanka were unable to build partnerships against the accurate Pakistani attack, which revelled on the slow wicket.
Veteran Sanath Jayasuriya failed to take advantage of two dropped catches and fell for 15, while opening partner Upul Tharanga struggled to make 17.
Skipper Kumar Sangakkara hit 36 and Jayawardene scored 33 in his 300th One-Day International, but none of the other top order batsmen settled in.
The duo put on 48 for the third wicket before Sri Lanka lost four wickets for 38 runs to slip from a promising 93/2 in the 22nd over.
Pakistan surprisingly left out 19-year-old batsman Umar Akmal despite his unbeaten century in a practice match on Monday.
Sri Lanka were bolstered by the return of Muralitharan, the world’s leading wicket-taker in both Test and One-day cricket, and fast bowler Lasith Malinga.
The second match will be played at the same venue on Saturday.