NEW DELHI: Top-order batter
conjured a match-defining 91 as he along with
guided Sri Lanka to the
Asia Cup final
, defeating top-ranked ODI side Pakistan by 2 wickets (DLS) in the rain-marred last-over Super Four thriller in Colombo on Thursday.
Kusal fired a dazzling 87-ball 91 while Samarawickrama hit a crucial 48 as the duo shared a masterful century stand for the third wicket in a tricky 252 chase. In the final leg of the chase Asalanka showed nerves of steel to hand the co-hosts a famous win off the last ball at 10 past one post midnight.
The rain gods were once again not kind as they first reduced the game to 45 overs and then came back to further shorten it to a 42 overs per-side contest.
A late Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed 108-run stand took Pakistan to a solid 252 for 7 but the Kusal-Samarawickrama partnership and a resolute effort from Asalanka helped the Lankans triumph in the last-ball thriller.
Here’s how Sri Lanka pulled off a famous win over Pakistan in the Asia Cup Super Four game.
Zaman early blow and Shafique, Babar stand
Rain once again played a spoilsport in crunch Super Four game as heavy showers delayed the toss by a couple of hours. When the toss did finally happen,
opted to bat first in the revised 45-over-per-side contest. An already injury-plagued Pakistan, suffered another blow before the start as they were forced to bring in Fakhar Zaman in a last-minute change as Imam-ul-Haq got ruled out with back spasm. Already struggling with form, the sudden inclusion in the playing XI did not help neither Zaman nor Pakistan as the opener was knocked over for 4 in the 5th over from Pramod Madushan. Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam then forged a solid 64-run partnership before the Pakistan skipper was undone by a ripper from Dunith Wellalage. As a drifting delivery from Wellalage spunaway, Babar was beaten all ends up and was stumped for 29.
The mini collapse
At the end of the 16th over, when Babar was dismissed, Pakistan had a decent 72 runs on the board and Abdullah Shafique had got his eyes in. The left-hander then added 27 runs for the third wicket with Mohammad Rizwan and also got to his half-century in the process. But then young Matheesha Pathirana got rid of Shafique for 52 to open the gates for Sri Lanka. From 100 for 2 at the start of 22nd over, Pakistan slipped to 130 for 5 in the 28th as Mohammad Haris (3) and Mohammad Nawaz (12) had miserable outings. While Haris became the second victim of Pathirana, Nawaz was cleaned up by Maheesh Theekshana. Luckily for Pakistan, rain arrived soon after Nawaz’s dismissal, which halted the momentum of the Lankan bowlers. Another 40 minutes of rain forced the match to be reduced by another 3 overs to 42-over-per-side game.
The Rizwan, Iftikhar blitz
When the game resumed at 8:10 pm IST, Mohammad Rizwan had a new partner with him in Iftikhar Ahmed. The duo went cracking after the rain interruption, catching the Lankan bowlers by surprise. Hitting the bowlers left, right and centre, Rizwan and Ahmed considerably pulled up Pakistan’s run rate. On the way, Rizwan also brought up his fifty as the duo fired a sizzling 108-run partnership off just 78 balls. Iftikhar (47) did miss out on a well-deserved fifty but made sure that Pakistan got enough runs on the board in the rain-curtailed game. Shadab Khan also fell in the final over but Rizwan’s 86 not out took Pakistan to a terrific total.
An unfortunate run out early in chase
Chasing a revised DLS target of 252, Kusal Perera started briskly for Sri Lanka, firing a couple of boundaries in the Shaheen Afridi first over. With 17 off 7, Kusal was looking really good but a miscommunication with his fellow opener Pathum Nissanka, cost him his wicket in the fourth over. There was a yes-and-no with Nissanka as Shadab Khan produced a direct hit to send Kusal packing. But despite the early jolt, Nissanka continued confidently alongside Kusal Mendis, adding a 57-run stand for the second wicket. However a soft dismissal forced Nissanka back to the pavilion for 29 as Shadab took a good catch of his own bowling in the 14th over.
Samarawickrama, Mendis century stand
With 77 on the board for the loss of 2 wickets in the 14th over, Sri Lanka were in dire need of a partnership and Sadeera Samarawickrama and Kusal Mendis rose to the occasion, putting up a match-defining stand. Batting over 15 overs together, Samarawickrama and Kusal frustrated the quality Pakistani pace attack, not allowing them any window of . Their century stand came over run-a-ball, tilting the balance of the match in favour of the Lankans. With a perfect mix of attack and defence, the duo gave nothing to the Pakistan bowlers and always kept the asking rate in check. In the process, Kusal raised his fifty while Samarawickrama was too headed for his own. But unfortunately, soon after the century stand, there was a lapse in concentration from Samarawickrama as he went for a needless charge off Iftikhar Ahmed and got stumped for 48 in the 30th over. At the time of Samarawickrama’s dismissal, Sri Lanka needed another 75 runs off 74 balls.
A thrilling last-ball finish
With the equation still pretty much under control and Mendis well set in the middle, it looked as if Sri Lanka would cross the line with ease. But Pakistan’s never-say-die attitude was on full display as they made a remarkable comeback. Iftikhar opened up the match for Pakistan in the 36th over as he removed Mendis for 91 in a crucial blow to Sri Lanka. Dasun Shanaka was next to fall a couple of overs later as Iftikhar grabbed his third. As Pakistan sniffed a comeback, Asalanka held one end strongly. He steadily took Lanka closer to the target but the penultimate over from Shaheen Afridi completely changed the game. With 12 needed off 12 balls, Shaheen’s two wickets in two balls of Dhananjaya de Silva and Wellalage put pressure right back on Sri Lanka. A perfect 4-run two-wicket Shaheen over left 8 off 6 equation for Lanka in the final over. A Pramod Madushan in the final over from Zaman Khan made things even more complicated as Lankans now needed 6 runs off the final two balls. But Asalanka held his nerves together and smashed 2 successive boundaries to steer his side home