Bhanuka Rajapaksa
Bhanuka Rajapaksa. (Photo: Twitter)

Sri Lanka clinched their sixth Asian Cup title by defeating Pakistan in the summit clash by 23 runs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. In the process, Sri Lanka National Cricket Team clinched their Asia Cup title tally to 6 – just one behind India. Overall, Sri Lanka and Pakistan have faced off in 4 Asia Cup finals with the former winning in 1986, 2014 and 2022 while the latter emerged victorious in 2000.

Speaking at the post-match ceremony, MOTM Bhanuka Rajapaksa said, “It was not easy out there. Pakistan were bowling well. When Wanindu came in, we got a plan. We wanted to be positive all through. When Iftikhar was bowling, Wanindu said that he would attack him. But thankfully both of us went har. I had to change my game because Pakistanis were on top. We wanted to spend some time in the crease and that helped in getting 170. When Chris (Silverwood) came out to talk to us after the 10th over, I told him that 140 was a good score. But we stayed till the end and the target was much different. The last ball six and the last over helped us with the momentum and this is a game of momentum.”

Sri Lanka made a slow start to their innings

Earlier, Pakistan National Cricket Team won the toss and opted to bowl first in the match. This was the first toss that Sri Lanka had lost in the Super 4 stage of the ongoing edition of the Asia Cup.

The Men In Green made two changes to the playing XI as Shadab Khan and Naseem Shah replaced Usman Qadir and Hasan Ali. On the other hand, the Lankan Lions, who were playing their 11th Asia Cup final, made no changes to the playing XI.

The Dasun Shanaka and Co. were off to a poor start in the match as star opening batsman Kusal Mendis was sent back to the dugout for a golden duck by young pace bowling sensation Naseem Shah in the first over itself.

Haris Rauf came to bowl the fourth over of the match and on the second ball he cleaned up opener Pathum Nissanka for 8. The 28-year-old’s lethal 151kph delivery bamboozled Danushka Gunathilaka for 1 in the 6th over. At the end of the powerplay, Sri Lanka were at 42/3.

Dhananjaya de Silva, who looked very good out in the middle, was cleaned up by part-timer Iftikhar Ahmed for 28 in the 8th over. In the very next over Dasun Shanaka’s poor slog-sweep resulted in him getting castled by Shadab Khan for 2.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa (Image Credits: Twitter)
Bhanuka Rajapaksa (Image Credits: Twitter)

Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Chamika Karunaratne propel Sri Lanka to a challenging total

After that, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Wanindu Hasaranga had a remarkable partnership that helped Sri Lanka gain momentum. The duo added 58 runs in 36 balls before Hasaranga was dismissed by Haris Rauf in the 15th over. He scored 36 runs off 21 balls, including 5 fours and 1 six.

In the end, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Chamika Karunaratne had an amazing unbeaten 54 runs partnership in 31 balls that helped Sri Lanka post 170/6 on the board. Rajapaksa smashed sensational 71 runs off 45 balls, including 6 fours and 3 sixes. Karunaratne contributed 14 runs off 14 balls, including 1 six.

Chasing the target, Pakistan were off to a poor start as they lost two wickets inside the first six overs and at the end of the powerplay they were at 37/2. Captain Babar Azam, who had an extremely poor run with the bat in the Asia Cup, scored 5 runs off 6 balls and Fakhar Zaman, who struggled for runs in the marquee tournament, got cleaned up for a golden duck. Both the wickets were picked up by the 28-year-old seamer Pramod Madushan.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa. PC- Getty
Bhanuka Rajapaksa. PC- Getty

Mohammed Rizwan tried to keep Pakistan in the hunt but falls short

Star wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed batted cautiously and had a 71-run partnership in 59 balls before the latter was dismissed by Pramod Madushan for 32 in the 14th over. Mohammad Nawaz also failed to perform and got out after scoring 6 runs in the 16th over.

Wanindu Hasaranga came to bowl next and he produced a magical 17th over by dismissing Mohammad Rizwan (55), Asif Ali (0) and Khushdil Shah (2). In the end, Maheesh Theekshana, Pramod Madushan and Chamika Karunaratne picked up wickets and Pakistan were bundled out for 147.

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