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Sarfraz Ahmed’s unpredictable Pakistan stand between England and a second straight Champions Trophy final appearance.

Captain Sarfraz’s unbeaten 61 against depleted Sri Lanka at Cardiff guided his side into Wednesday’s last-four meeting on the same Sophia Gardens ground.

Pakistan, the most capricious team in world cricket, came into the tournament ranked eighth of eight but the defining period of a contest low on quality but high on intrigue proved to be the final hour, during which Sarfraz shared a 75-run stand for the eighth wicket with Mohammad Amir, punctuated by Sri Lankan misfields, overthrows and, crucially, two dropped catches.

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed led his side to victory over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed led his side to victory over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed led his side to victory over Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy

Pakistan will now face England in the semi-finals, while Sri Lanka were eliminated in Cardiff

Pakistan will now face England in the semi-finals, while Sri Lanka were eliminated in Cardiff

Pakistan will now face England in the semi-finals, while Sri Lanka were eliminated in Cardiff

Sarfraz was the beneficiary of both, in consecutive overs from Lasith Malinga as Thisara Perera floored a sitter at mid-on and substitute Seekkuge Prasanna failed to clutch a pull, running in from deep square-leg.

Those blips allowed Sarfraz his euphoric moment, when he guided his fifth boundary to the third man rope off Malinga.

Sarfraz was the beneficiary of both, in consecutive overs from Lasith Malinga as Thisara Perera floored a sitter at mid-on and substitute Seekkuge Prasanna failed to clutch a pull, running in from deep square-leg.

Those blips allowed Sarfraz his euphoric moment, when he guided his fifth boundary to the third man rope off Malinga.

Nuwan Pradeep took three wickets as Sri Lanka rallied after being bowled out for only 236

Nuwan Pradeep took three wickets as Sri Lanka rallied after being bowled out for only 236

Nuwan Pradeep took three wickets as Sri Lanka rallied after being bowled out for only 236

Mohammad Hafeez scored one as Pakistan slipped from 74-1 to 162-7 in the space of 18 overs

Mohammad Hafeez scored one as Pakistan slipped from 74-1 to 162-7 in the space of 18 overs

Mohammad Hafeez scored one as Pakistan slipped from 74-1 to 162-7 in the space of 18 overs

‘England has been playing really good cricket for the last two years and if you are playing a world-class team you need to be more positive,’ Sarfraz said.

But they are unlikely to get away with the errors that littered their play. Indeed, victory should have been secured comfortably.

Cruising towards their 237-run target at 74 without loss thanks to Fakhar Zaman’s maiden international 50, a sequence of rash strokes saw them slump to 162 for seven.

The seventh — debutant Fahim Ashraf run out at the non-striker’s end when Perera deflected Sarfraz’s drive — suggested it was not to be their day. However, Sri Lanka were simply woeful when it mattered most, leaving their captain Angelo Mathews to say: ‘If we had held those catches it would have been a very different story.’

Earlier, Pakistan’s impressive bowling attack restricted Sri Lanka’s ambitions thanks to two wickets apiece for Amir and Junaid Khan in a 23-ball spell in mid-innings plunging them to 167 for seven.

Ahmed scored 61 off 79 balls to help Pakistan recover and reach the semi-finals in Cardiff

Ahmed scored 61 off 79 balls to help Pakistan recover and reach the semi-finals in Cardiff

Ahmed scored 61 off 79 balls to help Pakistan recover and reach the semi-finals in Cardiff

Opening bowler Mohammad Amir (left) took two wickets before scoring 28 not out with the bat

Opening bowler Mohammad Amir (left) took two wickets before scoring 28 not out with the bat

Opening bowler Mohammad Amir (left) took two wickets before scoring 28 not out with the bat

 

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