COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Brace yourself for an exhilarating roller coaster ride as Sri Lanka emerges triumphant over injury-hit Pakistan in a nail-biting encounter at the Asia Cup. Charith Asalanka’s remarkable performance led Sri Lanka to a stunning two-wicket victory over their formidable opponents, securing their spot in the much-anticipated final against India on Sunday.
A Thrilling Victory
With just six runs required off the last two balls, Asalanka demonstrated nerves of steel as he expertly maneuvered the ball to the boundary, securing a boundary to third man against debutant fast bowler Zaman Khan. He then turned the pacer to the square leg for two runs, propelling Sri Lanka to a formidable total of 252-8 in a rain-reduced 42-over-a-side Super 4 game.
Asalanka’s Heroic Innings
Asalanka’s unbeaten 49 off 47 balls proved to be the pivotal contribution that ensured Sri Lanka’s survival in the face of a formidable bowling attack. Despite the threatening duo of Zaman Khan and experienced Shaheen Shah Afridi (2-52), Asalanka remained calm and composed, displaying the character of a true champion. Sri Lanka’s captain, Dasun Shanaka, lauded Asalanka’s exceptional performance, recognizing him as a great player and expressing his joy at reaching back-to-back finals.
Pakistan’s Missed Opportunities
Pakistan’s bowling and fielding let them down, allowing the match to slip from their grasp. Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi’s penultimate over proved to be a moment of brilliance as he dismissed Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage off successive deliveries, conceding only four runs. However, Zaman Khan’s costly last ball allowed Asalanka to seal the victory for Sri Lanka, delighting the boisterous home crowd of nearly 35,000 at R. Premadasa Stadium.
Sri Lanka’s Advantage
Sri Lanka capitalized on Pakistan’s weakened bowling attack, seizing the opportunity to dominate the game. With key fast bowlers Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf ruled out due to injuries, and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf facing a dip in form, Pakistan struggled to contain Sri Lanka’s batsmen. Kusal Mendis made a brilliant 91 off 87 balls, partnering with Sadeera Samarawickrama, who contributed 48 to the partnership. Pakistan’s Zaman Khan and Mohammad Wasim failed to stem the flow of runs, and leg-spinner Shadab Khan struggled with his length, resulting in subpar figures of 1-55.
A Glimpse of Pakistan’s Fighting Spirit
Although Pakistan faced setbacks, they fought back valiantly to keep the game alive. Off-spinner Iftikhar Ahmed’s exceptional performance of 3-50 brought Pakistan back into the match. He had Samarawickrama stumped, and brilliantly caught Mendis off the leading edge, thanks to a diving catch by Mohammad Haris at short cover. Earlier, Mohammad Rizwan’s superb knock of 86 off 73 balls and Ahmed’s supporting score of 47 propelled Pakistan to a competitive total of 252-7, despite both batters receiving early reprieves.
A Riveting Encounter Amidst Rain Disruptions
Rain once again played a spoilsport, delaying the toss and reducing the game to a 45-over-a-side match. Pakistan was further hit by the absence of Imam-ul-Haq and Saud Shakeel due to illness. However, Abdullah Shafique made an impressive 52 in his first game of the tournament, after Fakhar Zaman’s inconsistent form continued. Shafique and captain Babar Azam revived the innings with a crucial 64-run partnership before Wellalage bowled an excellent delivery, which resulted in Babar being stumped. Haris Rauf and Mohammad Nawaz fell quickly, reducing Pakistan to 130-5 before the rain intervened.
A Fierce Counterattack
Once the game resumed after a half-hour delay, Rizwan and Ahmed launched a breathtaking counterattack against Sri Lanka’s fast bowlers Matheesha Pathirana (3-65) and Madushan (2-58). Their aggressive batting approach added valuable runs to Pakistan’s total, giving the team a glimmer of hope amidst the challenging conditions.
This thrilling encounter between Pakistan and Sri Lanka showcased the resilience and determination of both teams. Join DHPL Travels as we relive this epic battle and eagerly await the Asia Cup final between Sri Lanka and India, which promises to be an electrifying clash of titans.