Dubai, Sept. 11: Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning win, worthy of a final, as they clinched their sixth Asia Cup title at the Dubai International Stadium on Sunday.
Official hosts Sri Lanka would have loved to lift the trophy back at home, but nevertheless it was a much-needed win for the country as they put up a sizzling show to hand Pakistan a 23-run defeat in the Asia Cup final in Dubai.
After a stellar comeback with the bat, the bowlers put up a solid show, while their fielding played an equally important role as Sri Lanka clinched a thumping win. Win the toss and win the match? Well, Sri Lanka defied that theory on Sunday as they clinched a thumping win to be crowned Asian Cup champions. From being down to 58/5, Sri Lanka pulled off a stunning comeback to outplay Pakistan and lift the trophy. The win will be a big motivator for the Lankans who don't even have a direct qualification in the upcoming T20 World Cup.
After opting to bat, the young Naseem Shah handed Pakistan a cracking start. Stunning delivery at 142km/hr, Shah uprooted the off stump as Kusal Mendis fell for a golden duck.
Opener Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva rebuild the innings quickly with a flurry of boundaries. But Pakistan's go-to-man Haris Rauf delivered in his very first over, as Lanka lost their second opener within the powerplay. Pakistan skipper Babar Azam took a superb running catch as Rauf removed Nissanka for just 8 off 11 to reduce Sri Lanka to 23/2 in 3.2 overs.
Though two wickets down, de Silva kept the boundaries flowing with some lovely shots. But superb captaincy from Azam saw Pakistan lose a third wicket within the powerplay. Rauf, who generally bowls just one over in the powerplay, was asked to bowl the final over of the powerplay and the move paid off. Rauf picked up his second wicket as he knocked back the middle and off stump to send Gunathilaka packing for just 1. Shah's first over strike and Rauf's two wickets, saw Lanka reduced to 43/3 in the powerplay.
In the eighth over, Iftikhar picked up a wicket as he took a superb reflex catch to end de Silva's innings. With Silva falling for 28 off 21, the Lankan skipper came to the crease before the halfway mark. Shanaka failed to pull his team out if the woods as he fell for just 2 off 3. Taking on Shadab, a poor shot from Shanaka saw Lanka lose their fifth wicket. With Lanka struggling at 58/5 in 8.5 overs, Wanindu Hasaranga joined Rajapaksa in the middle as the pair looked to turn it around for Sri Lanka.
Halfway through the innings, Pakistan dominated the show. After 10 innings, Sri Lanka were five wickets down for just 67 runs on the board. Hasaranga and Rajapaksa put the pressure back on the bowlers as they duo raced to 50 runs off just 33 deliveries for the sixth wicket stand. The pair looked undo all the work done by Pakistan in the first half, but Rauf once again delivered for the Men in Green.
Coming back into the attack in the 15th over, Rauf broke the partnership, picking up his 50th T20I wicket. Rauf ended Hasanranga's blistering knock of 36 off 21 to once again put the brakes on Sri Lanka. Reduced to 116/6 in 14.5 overs
But Rajapaksa, who registered the highest score by a Sri Lankan in the tournament, played a blistering unbeaten knock to guide Sri Lanka to a big total. From being down to 58/5 in 8.5 overs, Rajapaksa led the stunning fightback as Sri Lanka posted a defendable total of 170/6 in their alloted 20 overs. Rajapaksa led the fight back with a sizzling unbeaten 71 off 45, which was studded with six boundaries and three fours. After his sizzling partnership with Hasaranga, Rajapaksa added 54 off 31 with Karunaratne for the seventh wicket to put Pakistan on the backfoot.
In reply, the Pakistan powerplay was an action-packed one. Sri Lanka got off to a dismal start as the young Dilshan Madushanka leaked 9 runs off extra deliveries without bowling a single legal ball. Madushanka bowled 11 balls in the first over and leaked 11 runs. But Lanka quickly put it behind them as Pramod Madushan, coming into the attack in the third over, pocketed back-to-back wickets to put Lanka in control. After removing the struggling Babar Azam (5), Madushan struck on the very next ball to remove the dangerous Fakhar Zaman for a golden duck, to reduce Pakistan to 22/2 in 3.3 overs.
In the powerplay Pakistan posted 37 for the loss of two wickets. After the stuttering start, Rizwan and Iftikhar rebuild Pakistan's innings. At the halfway stage Pakistan's score read 68/2, with Babar Azam's men needing 103 from the remaining ten overs. From thereon, it was anyone's game.
Rizwan and Iftikhar kept Pakistan on course with a solid third-wicket partnership. The pair added 71 off 59, before Madushan picked up his third wicket of the evening to put the brakes on Pakistan. Trying it slice it away for a maximum, Iftikhar skied it high and found the fielder at deep backward square leg as Madushan reduced Pakistan to 93/3 in 13.2 overs.
The difference between the two sides in the final came down to fielding, with Sri Lanka saving the boundaries and picking up the catches. In the final five over, Pakistan needed 70 to win. Rizwan who brought up his half-century off 47 deliveries, fell just after his 50 as Hasaranga handed Sri Lanka the big wicket.
Bowling his final over, Hasaranga turned the screws as he picked up three wickets in the 17th over. After removing the set Rizwan, who was picked up by Gunathilaka in the deep, Hasaranga picked up two more wickets. On the third delivery of the over, Hasaranga knocked back the stumps to remove Asif Ali for a duck as the game slowly slipped out of Pakistan's grasp. He wasn't done just yet, as he removed Khushdil Shah for just two to reduce Pakistan to 112/7 in 16.5 overs.
After Hasaranga's sizzling final over, which saw him pick up three wickets, Pakistan needed 59 runs from the final three overs. Thereon, the Pakistan line-up crumbled like a pack of cards as Sri Lanka closed in on a thumping win.
Madushan led the attack for Pakistan with a four-wicket haul, while Hasaranga picked up three crucial wickets. Chamika Karunaratne picked up two wickets, while Maheesh Theekshana picked up one Sri Lanka wrapped up a comfortable win over Pakistan.
Here, mykhel brings you the post-match comments, full list of awards, man of the match, captain's comments from the presentation ceremony of the Asia Cup 2022 Final:
Sri Lanka's Asia Cup titles: 1986, 1997, 2004, 2008, 2014, 2022
Full list of awards:
Catch of the Match: Ashen Bandara
Player of the Match: Bhanuka Rajapaksa
Player of the Series: Wanindu Hasaranga
Dasun Shanaka (SL), Winning Captain: I must thank the crowd, they're support has been massive. Also thank you to the home fans, hope we made them proud. (Toss) I made a point at the toss. If I go back to IPL 2021, it was Chennai who won the final after batting first. That's where good teams are built. Youngsters know conditions very well. After losing five wickets Rajapaksa and Hasaranga put up a huge partnership. Up front, Chamika and DDS batted really well too. The last ball six was the turning point. 170 is mentally tricky. (First over) It's about nerves. As a youngster he can deliver, we need to give him time. He can go wrong at the start but as a captain we have to believe in him, back him. (First game loss) It can happen to any good team in the world. After that we had serious discussions and everyone stood up and did their part. (Fielding) Improved a lot in the final. League stage we had mistakes, final is final, we were spot on in the field as they did their 100%, so kudos to them. Sri Lankan cricket board supported us throughout, and also the selectors.
Babar Azam (PAK), Losing Captain: Congratulations to Sri Lanka - the way they played was fantastic. We dominated them in the first 8 overs, but Rajapaksa's innings, that partnership in the middle was stunning. The pitch was really good and as a batting unit we didn't perform well. We didn't capitalise on the start, so we did leak 15-20 runs. Our fielding wasn't good and our middle-order couldn't finish well. We've learnt, a lot of positives. Individual performances - Rizwan, Shadab, Nawaz and Naseem - were very good. Naseen Shah was outstanding. It's part of the game, up and down happens but the lesser mistakes you make the better for you.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Player of the Match: It was not easy out there. Pakistan was bowling well out there. But when Wanindu came we had a nice plan. Nature of Sri Lanka cricket is to play positive and that helped us. When Iftikhar was bowling Wanindu said he'll attack, but fortunately we both got runs. I had to change my game. We were 67/5 it was a crucial moment in the game. Had to spend some time in the crease. When Chris spoke to us in the 10th over, we assessed the wicket and said it should be a 140 pitch. Eventually stayed till the end and the target was very different. (Last ball six) Great feeling! This is a game of momentum and that helped us as we set the momentum to win.
Wanindu Hasaranga, Player of the Series: When I went to the crease we were five wickets down. We planned if we can cross 150 its a good total. I played my normal shots and played my own role. (Pitch) First few overs it was swinging, but when I was batting wicket was really good. In subcontinent I love to bowl I try to bowl on the stumps and that's why I get success. I try to bowl without boundaries, that's why got three wickets in the final over. Our boys did a great job in the tournament, especially after losing in the first game to Afghanistan, our boys did really well.
Chamika Karunaratne (SL): Feel so good! We're winning after seven years. One and a half years ago we were nowhere. We're a different team, I feel so good. (Toss) In the dressing room, they said doesn't matter, whatever happens we can win it, we're just going to fight and win it. A lot of hardwork. The players were pushing their limits. Even after their first loss, they kept pushing their limits, went to the gym, worked really hard. So proud of them.
Dhananjay de Silva (SL): I was ready, I was practicing well. Was ready for the final game. (Better than other teams) Nothing new, we stuck to our plans. We planned well against other teams.
Kusal Mendis (SL): Very very happy. Team wanted more runs from me. Me and Pathum put up strong partnerships in last two matches. When we were two-three wickets down, Rajapaksa and Hasaranga put up a strong partnership.
Chris Silverwood (SL coach): Kusal set the tone for us up top. He has led very well from the top. (Poor track record) There was a confidence that the team had a talent. We just needed a method really. We worked hard and the results are showing. It was one of the reasons why we could set and defend - plan was there. (Standout players) Dilshan, the left-armer, the young seam attack, that was superb. The rest picked their hands up as well. It was a team effort.
Mohammed Rizwan (PAK): If a champion team focusses on the toss then you're not a champion. Sri Lanka team deserved it and they also capitalised on the mistakes we made. We made mistakes, we're humans. We've played well throughout the tournament. Sri Lanka took the momentum towards the end, and that makes a difference in T20s. Sri Lanka deserves the win.