Asia Cup 2022 Final: Pakistan stand in way of Sri Lanka cricket’s rebirth
Asia Cup 2022 Final: The Sri Lankan cricket team would like to provide its countrymen an emotional catharsis if it were to defeat a much superior Pakistan in the Asia Cup final here on Sunday after experiencing the biggest socio-economic crises and democratic turmoil in its history.
Technically, Sri Lanka is hosting this year’s Asia Cup, but in a terrible twist of fate, the competition had to be moved to the United Arab Emirates for security reasons.
Though Dasun Shanaka and his team’s performance in the Super 4s would have everyone to believe that Babar Azam’s team would not have it easy, it could have been much sweeter had the final been played at the storied Khettarama Stadium (now Premadasa Stadium).
Everyone in Dubai, including the Asian Cricket Council, wanted an Indo-Pak final. But the brave cricketers from the island nation have earned their place in the summit match.
And if that wasn’t enough, Friday’s straightforward victory over their opponents served as a warning that will put Pakistan on edge.
The Mohammed Rizwan, Mohammed Nawaz, and Naseem Shah would like to lift their games on the big day. That has been a tradition that is so relevant with the legacy of their national teams over the years. But in Dubai, bolstered by a substantial Pakistan population that is bursting at the seams.
But in Sri Lanka, they face a team that has undoubtedly earned its redemption in a format where they had previously won the world championship in 2014. The opposition there could be more than a handful.
Similar to how the nation’s economy as a whole has suffered, Sri Lanka’s cricket fortunes have plummeted. Internal politics within the board and poor selection haven’t helped either.
The side Shanaka commanded during their away series in India about six months ago consisted largely of the same group of players. But Sri Lanka had successfully changed their T20 gameplan to one that is aggressive now.
The bowling attack has looked strong even without Dushmantha Chammera. But Rahul Dravid and the Indian team would want to pay attention to how important Sri Lanka’s top five hitters have been.
While players like Danushka Gunathilaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shanaka himself. And Chamikaatne Karunaratne have all made runs that matter. Two right-handed openers, Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka, have been positivism personified at the top.
One example is how they defeated Afghanistan by chasing down a goal of 70 or so runs. With none of the batsmen scoring more than 35 runs while maintaining a strike rate of at least 150.
The Sri Lankan hitters have struck 62 fours and 28 sixes in their first five games. That tells us a lot about their approach.
Mahesh Theekshana has emerged as Wanindu Hasaranga’s formidable spin bowling partner. And Dilshan Madhushanka has handled the role of the lead pacer wonderfully.
In comparison, Pakistan has advanced to the finals, although Babar’s form has failed him throughout the competition. A player of his calibre shouldn’t have only scored 63 runs in five games, as that is below average.
In the game that counts the most, the captain would like to sing the song of redemption.
The bowling assault of Pakistan, which includes Naseem Shah, who is becoming better every day, Harris Rauf, and Mohammed Hasnain, is its strongest point.
The two spinners, left-arm orthodox Mohammed Nawaz (ER 6.05 and 8 wickets). And leg-break bowler Shadab Khan (ER 5.79 and 7 wickets), have both performed really well.
Pakistan isn’t excellent at batting first. And in the two games they’ve lost in the tournament against India and Sri Lanka, they’ve batted first. This is why the toss has become significant in Dubai.
None of the top-order batters, especially those who have faced more than 50 balls during the tournament. They have a strike rate of 120 or higher. Rizwan is always in charge when Pakistan is chasing. Thus winning the toss and choosing to field first would give Pakistan the best chance.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir, Mohammed Hasnain, Hasan Ali.
Sri Lanka: Dasun Shanaka (c), Danushka Gunathilaka, Pathum Nissanka, Kusal Mendis, Charith Asalanka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Ashen Bandara, Dhananjaya de Silva, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Jeffrey Vandersay, Praveen Jayawickrama, Chamika Karunaratne, Dilshan Madushanka, Matheesha Pathirana, Nuwanidu Fernando and Dinesh Chandimal.