What an end to a remarkable game of cricket at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo. Some may call it cinema while others may call it a nightmare. Depends on which side of the coin you pick. Nevertheless, a thriller saw Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by two wickets in the final delivery of the game to qualify for the finals of the Asia Cup 2023.
Batting first, Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan batted well to help Pakistan post 252 runs in 42 overs. However, other batters have failed to step up and that’s a massive concern ahead of the ODI World Cup. When it came to the chase, Sri Lanka started really well and set the tone of the game. Kusal Perera gave the perfect start but he couldn’t capitalise. Kusal Mendis, however, remained calm and hit 91 runs in 87 deliveries to guide Sri Lanka close to the vitory.
Later, Sadeera Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka played extremely well. Shaheen Shah Afridi pulled things back in Pakistan’s favour with back-to-back wickets in the penultimate over of the game but with two needed in the last delivery, Asalanka remained calm and got the job done for his team.
Talking points of the match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan
Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed’s partnership
Pakistan needed something special with the bat. The batters wasted a lot of deliveries in the initial overs and hence, Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed had to shift the gears. The stumper-batter ended up scoring 86* runs off 73 deliveries, while Iftikhar hit 47 runs off 40 deliveries. Courtesy of their knocks, Pakistan posted 252 runs on the board, something they didn’t expect at one point.
Kusal Mendis – The Man, The Myth, The Legend
Whenever Sri Lanka have been in trouble in recent times, Kusal Mendis has stepped up and got the job done. He hit 91 runs and completely changed the complexion of the game. Courtesy of his incredible performance, Sri Lanka managed to qualify for his 11th final in the Asia Cup.
Charith Asalanka – Cometh the hour, Cometh the Man
After Sadeera Samarawickrama’ dismissal, Sri Lanka were on the verge of bottling. However, Asalanka along with Mendis built a crucial partnership to keep the keep sailing. In the end, he took the matter into his own hands and remained extremely calm and composed to get the job done. After the match, the cricketer also claimed this to be his second-best knock in his career. Speaks volume, isn’t it?
Losing skipper Babar Azam said:
In the end, we decided to bowl our best bowlers. That’s why I decided to bowl Shaheen and then we believed in Zaman Khan for the final over. SL played really well, they played better cricket than us, that’s why they won. We weren’t up to the mark with our bowling and fielding, that’s why we lost. (One major factor that could have been different) In the middle overs, we are not bowling well. That partnership (between Mendis and Samarawickrama) cost us. We are starting well, we are finishing well, but we are not taking wickets in the middle overs.
Winning skipper Dasun Shanaka said:
We had the game under control, but the losing of wickets took it till the last over. We gave them a chance to come back in the game, but we knew Charith could get us home. We had a discussion before batting and we discussed the mistakes we made in the India game. We gave away wickets in the first 10 overs, and Kusal and Sadeera played brilliant knocks. I think they are the best players of spin in the Sri Lanka squad. And Charith, showed great character. Special feeling, back to back finals. I must thank the crowds who kept supporting us, and looking forward to the finals.
POTM Kusal Mendis said:
Happy with my performance, happy to get to the final. Those two wickets fell down and we were nervous, but with Charith in the middle we had hope. He’s done this in one game against Afghanistan. I think we also bowled really well, so happy to be in the final.