An impressive fighting fifty by Bhanuka Rajapaksa (71 not out off 45 and an attacking knock by Wanindu Hasaranga (36 off 21) propelled Sri Lanka to 170/6 against Pakistan in the final of the Asia Cup 2022 at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, here on Sunday.
Apart from Rajapaksa and Hasaranga, Dhananjaya de Silva (28 off 21) and Chamika Karunaratne (14 not out off 14) also played vital knocks for Sri Lanka, during their stay at the crease.
Put into bat first, Sri Lanka were off to a terrible start, losing three wickets inside the powerplay against the quality pace bowling. In the very first over, pacer Naseem Shah clean bowled Mendis, who was late to bring his bat down on a quality length ball. Pathum Nissanka and Dhananjaya de Silva then hit a few boundaries to show some fight back.
However, Pakistan skipper Babar Azam brought Haris Rauf into the attack and he put Sri Lanka back in trouble by taking the wickets of Nissanka and Danushka Gunathilaka.
On a quick delivery at 146 kph, Nissanka played a lofted shot but the ball went only to mid-off, where Babar Azam took a good backward running catch. The pacer then dismantled the stumps of Gunathilaka, to leave Sri Lanka in deep trouble at 36/3 after 5.1 overs.
Among all Sri Lankan batters, Dhananjaya de Silva looked most comfortable and it seemed he would bail his team out of trouble. But, Iftikhar Ahmed got rid of De Silva with a brilliant reflex catch off his own bowling in the ninth over.
And in the next over, Shadab Khan breached the defence of Sri Lanka spinner Dasun Shanaka, who went for a wild slog but couldn’t connect. With 58/5 in 8.5 overs, Sri Lanka were in danger of getting bowled but Rajapaksa and Hasaranga showed the fighting spirit and did counter-attack.
Both Rajapaksa and Hasaranga looked in control against spinners and hit three boundaries off Shadab Khan. Hasaranga then slammed one boundary and a huge six over backward point to give impetus to the Sri Lankan innings.
From who else but Hasaranga — 36 off 21. He was aggressive against Shadab, Hasnain and now Rauf again, hitting the pacer for two fours before he edged one to the keeper. What this wicket has done though is brought the match alive. Up until the ninth over, it was all Pakistan.
Hasaranga continued his aggressive approach and welcomed Haris Rauf with two boundaries before the pacer dismissed the batter to break a crucial 58-run stand for the sixth wicket, which brought the match alive.
After the wicket of Hasaranga, Rajapaksa had the responsibility of batting till the last over and he did that with perfection. He hit boundaries and sixes to complete his half-century in 35 balls.
The left-hander also got the able support of Chamika Karunaratne, which was required for a strong finish for Sri Lanka. Both Rajapaksa and Karunaratne remained not out, added 54 runs off only 31 balls and took Sri Lanka to 170/6 in 20 overs.
For Pakistan, Haris Rauf (3/29) was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets to his name while Iftikhar Ahmed (1/21), Shadab Khan (1/28) and Naseem Shah (1/40) were the other wicket takers.
Brief scores: Sri Lanka 170/6 in 20 overs (Bhanuka Rajapaksa 71 not out, Wanindu Hasaranga 36; Haris Rauf 3/29) vs Pakistan