Asia Cup: Evenly-Matched Pak & Sri Lanka Set To Lock Horns In Final

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By: Navneet Mundhra
Updated: 10 September, 2022 8:25 pm IST

Pakistan and Sri Lanka are set to cross swords once again in the final of the Asia Cup on Sunday. Earlier in the tournament, Sri Lanka had gotten the better of ‘Men In Green’ in the ‘Super Four’ group match. But, as is known to everyone, Pakistan are a supremely enigmatic unit and have the knack of pulling the rabbit out of the hat on their day.
Interestingly, both Pakistan and Sri Lanka had lost their first matches before sallying back with a vengeance and making it to the final. Sri Lanka were horribly pummeled by Afghanistan by 8 wickets in the first match of the tournament. The Afghan boys skittled them out for a meagre 105 and then nailed the target in just 10.2 overs.

Pakistan, on the other hand, were pipped to the post by their arch-rivals India by five wickets but exacted revenge by defeating them in the ‘Super Four’ match. Both teams have played enterprising cricket in the tournament after copping early setbacks and are gung-ho to stake their claim to the championship.

As has been the case over the years, Pakistan’s strongest suit is their bowling. After making a spry T20I debut against India earlier in the tournament, Naseem Shah is bowling with bracing gusto. The 19-year-old is bubbling with confidence after smoking two sixes in the last over Afghanistan and sealing the match. Haris Rauf is an experienced pacer who has been consistent for Pakistan in this format.

But their spinners – Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz – are the ones who are driving Pakistan’s fortunes in the tournament. Not only have they been stemming the flow of runs but are also snapping up heaps of wickets. Nawaz with 8 wickets is the second-highest wicket-taker of the tournament so far. The leg-spinner Shadab is also bowling probingly and posing a tough challenge for the opposition batsmen. Both of them have also reeled off blistering cameos at critical junctures and lend immense heft to their lower middle-order.

Pakistan’s batting is slightly flaccid. They are heavily dependent on their openers – Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan – for piling up runs. Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmad and Khushdil Shah haven’t made many contributions so far. Asif Ali at no. 6 is another key player who can turn the match around.

The manner in which Sri Lanka have bounced back after copping an ignominious defeat in their first match is truly laudable. They are playing the no-holds-barred and fearless brand of cricket in the tournament. Their opener Pathum Nissanka, who is one of the highest run-getters in 2022 in T20I format this year, and captain Dasun Shanaka are in rollicking form. Nissanka has managed to accord breezy starts to his team with the able support of his partner Kusal Mendis, while Shanaka at no.6 has mastered the art of finishing matches by scoring runs at a scoring rate, Their middle-order isn’t sturdy but Bhanuka Rajapaksa has the ability to rip up bowlers from the word go.

Wanindu Hasaranga is another trump card for Sri Lanka, who is arguably the best T20 bowler at present and can also be handy with the bat. The outcome of the match will depend a lot on how Pakistan batsmen negotiate their four overs. In his last match against Pakistan, he dismissed three important batters.

Dilshan Madhushanka, the left-arm seamer, is also bowling with appreciable control with the new ball and has laid the platform for Sri Lanka in the tournament by taking wickets with the new ball. The off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana is also in fine touch and has kept batsmen guessing with his variations.

Their recent form, records and team combination suggest that both of them are on an even keel and one is hard-pressed to pick a favourite. Hopefully, a high-octane and thrilling final is in the offing between two evenly-matched teams.

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