In Dubai, Sri Lanka defeated Pakistan by a margin of 23 runs to win the Asia Cup for the sixth time. Bhanuka Rajapaksa's (71* off 45) and Wanindu Hasaranga's (36 off 21) counter-attacking batting performance, which raised Sri Lanka from 58/5 and set Pakistan a goal of 171, proved to be too much for Babar Azam and company that evening. For the first time since April 2014, Sri Lanka won five straight T20Is after being bowled out for 147 in 20 overs.
Sri Lanka have only lost once in the competition going into this final, and it happened when they batted first. To be honest, it wasn't the first time they had failed to score a total; since the 2021 T20 World Cup, Sri Lanka had lost every game in which they had batted first. Additionally, the location only increased the difficulty of the competition because teams chasing in Dubai had won 26 of the previous 30 games entering this final. Therefore, when Pakistan won the toss, it put Sri Lanka's bat-first restrictions against Pakistan's mediocre chase record, making for an intriguing match.
Simply put, Pakistan was too fast up front. Naseem Shah, who was coming in quickly, rattled Kusal Mendis's stumps in the first over, but Harif Rauf, who had a pace of over 150, was waiting for them and took out Pathum Nissanka (caught at mid-off) and Danushka Gunathilaka (bowled). When Iftikhar Ahmed fired Dhananjaya de Silva, who up until that point appeared to be Sri Lanka's finest batter, things only got worse.
The counterattacking tandem between Wanindu Hasaranga and Bhanuka Rajapaksa surprised Pakistan at the time. For the sixth wicket, the pair scored 58 runs off just 36 balls. Against both pace and spin, Hasaranga in particular was aggressive and even struck Rauf for two straight boundaries before edging one to the keeper. Rajapaksa then assumed command, scoring 6 fours and 3 sixes in the final five overs to assist his team reach 53/0. Only twice in eight T20Is in 2022 did Sri Lanka manage to score 150+ while batting first.
Yes.. The surface featured adequate bounce for bowlers as well as sufficient bounce for making shots. But Babar Azam let Rajapaksa and Hasaranga get their eyes in against three spin overs rather than targeting Sri Lanka when they were five down.
The fielding by Pakistan in the final five overs wasn't much better either. Rajapaksa was twice dropped, the first time by Shadab Khan on 49 at long-on and the second time when he ran into Asif Ali at deep mid-wicket, resulting in a drop. Sri Lanka, on the other hand, accepted every catch that was sent their way, which is not always simple at Dubai's "Ring of Fire" stadium.
Mohammad Rizwan's slow-cooked fifty lacked the drive to chase something like 171 in a high-stakes final despite Babar Azam's form and his form. When Pakistan lost Babar (caught at short fine leg) and Fakhar Zaman (chopped on) off consecutive balls to Pramod Madushan, they were unable to retaliate (who finished with 4 for 34). Pakistan had only 68/2 at the midway point because Iftikhar Ahmed and Rizwan were both hesitant to get going. To be fair to the pair, they had performed admirably against Hasaranga, scoring 25 runs off of each of his first three overs, but it can be stated that his fourth over effectively ended the game.
Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah, and a well-positioned Rizwan all lost their wickets in that over, and Pakistan was eventually bowled out for 147 runs in 20 overs.
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