Bhanuka Rajapaksa and bowlers helped Sri Lanka clinch the Asia Cup 2022 when they registered a 23 run win over Pakistan in the final at Dubai International Stadium yesterday.
Sri Lanka last won the Asia Cup way back in 2014 against the same opponents, and repeated the feat to return home with the Asia Cup after 8 years.
Losing the all-important toss and being put into bat, Sri Lanka posted 170-6 in their allotted 20 overs riding on the back of a brilliant innings by Bhanuka Rajapaksa, and in reply Pakistan were bundle out for147 runs.
Sri Lanka were off to a horrible start with both openers (Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka) – who played tremendously well during the previous outings – being sent back to the pavilion cheaply to shell shock the Sri Lanka camp.
Kusal Mendis (0) was the first wicket to fall when he was bamboozled by a peach of a delivery by young Naseem Shah to put Pakistan on top in the early exchanges.
Pathum Nissanka (8) then followed a similar script when the right hander tried to swipe it back down the ground, but the ball ended up flying up towards mid-off, where Babar Azam got the job done to put Sri Lanka in further trouble.
Things went from bad to worse when No.3 batter Danushka Gunathilake (1) threw away his wicket. Attempting to clear the ball out of the park he ended up being bowled by Haris Rauf.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, Bhanuka Rajapaksa then joined Dhananjaya de Silva and the pair rotated the strike, but Dhananjaya failed to hang on and was caught and bowled by Ifthikar Ahmed for a well-made 28 off 21 deliveries including 4 boundaries.
Adding salt Sri Lanka’s wounds, skipper Dasun Shanaka (2) was the other batter to bite the dust when he was bowled by Shadab Khan to put Sri Lanka in further trouble.
With the islanders reeling at 5-58 and all top order batters back in the pavilion, Wanindu Hasaranga along with Bhanuka Rajapaksa revived the innings with a slow but solid 58 run partnership for the 6th wicket to take Sri Lanka from 58-5 to 116-6.
When the chips were down Wanindu, who had failed with the bat in his earlier outings, rose to the occasion in this important match, and led Sri Lanka’s fight back with a watchful 36 runs off 21 deliveries including 5 boundaries and a six before he was caught behind off Haris Rauf’s bowling.
After Hasaranga’s fireworks, Bhanuka Rajapaksa held his nerve and played the anchor role to get Sri Lanka to a healthy total. Rajapaksa along with Chamika Karunarathne engaged in an important 54 run partnership for the seventh wicket to put Sri Lanka on a perfect track.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa was the hero with the bat with an unbeaten 71 runs off 45 deliveries including 6 boundaries and 3 sixes, while Chamika played a supporting role and chipped in with 14 runs to help Sri Lanka post 170-6 runs at the end of their allotted 20 overs.
During the chase, it took 5 balls to bowl the first legal delivery in the Pakistan innings, when the young and inexperienced Dilshan Madushanka gifted an extra 10 runs in the very first over, bowling 5 wides and 1 no ball.
Despite a shaky start, Sri Lanka stormed back with back-to-back wickets thanks to young Pramod Madushan, who sent Skipper Babar Azam (5) and Fakhar Zaman (0) in consecutive deliveries to pin Pakistan early in the Innings.
However, wicket keeper/batter Mohamed Rizwan (55) and Ifthikar Ahmed (32) revived the innings with a 71 run partnership for the third wicket, before Pramod Madushan came back to break the partnership in the 14th over.
With 61 runs required in 24 deliveries, Hasaranga got the vital breakthrough to send well set batter Mohamed Rizwan back to the pavilion, and delivered once again in the very next ball to send Asif Ali packing for a golden duck. To make things worse, Hasaranga bagged his third wicket in the over to send Kushdil Shah back to the pavilion to virtually seal the match.
With the required rate jumping to over 24 runs per over, it was too much for Pakistan to handle, as Sri Lanka bowlers held their nerve to bring back the Asia Cup after 8 longs years.
Pramod Madushan playing in only his second international match of his career, chipped in with 4 wickets to bamboozle the Pakistan batting line up.
P. Nissanka c B. Azam b H. Rauf 08
K. Mendis b Naseem Shah 00
Dhananjaya de Silva c & b I. Ahmed 28
D. Gunathilaka b Haris Rauf 01
Bhanuka Rajapaksa not out 71
D. Shanaka b Shadab Khan 02
W. Hasaranga c †M. Rizwan b H. Rauf 36
Chamika Karunaratne not out 14
Extras (b 1, lb 7, w 2) 10
Total (20.0 overs) 6 wks 170
Fall of wickets: 1-2 (Kusal Mendis, 0.3 ov), 2-23 (Pathum Nissanka, 3.2 ov), 3-36 (Danushka Gunathilaka, 5.1 ov), 4-53 (Dhananjaya de Silva, 7.4 ov), 5-58 (Dasun Shanaka, 8.5 ov), 6-116 (Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva, 14.5 ov)
Bowling: Haris Rauf 4-0-29-3, Shadab Khan 4-0-28-1, Ifthikar Ahmed 3-0-21-1, Naseem Shah 4-0-40-1
M. Rizwan c Gunathilaka b W de Silva 55
B. Azam c Madushanka b Pramod 05
F. Zaman b Madushanka 00
I. Ahmed c sub (Bandara) b Pramod 32
M. Nawaz c Pramod b Karunaratne 06
K. Shah c Theekshana b PWH de Silva 02
Asif Ali b Wanindu Hasaranga 00
S. Khan c Gunathilaka b Theekshana 08
H. Rauf b Karunaratne 13
N. Shah c Karunaratne b Pramod 04
M. Hasnain not out 08
Extras (nb 2, w 12) 14
Total 20 (overs) all out 147
Fall of wickets: 1-22 (Babar Azam, 3.2 ov), 2-22 (Fakhar Zaman, 3.3 ov), 3-93 (Iftikhar Ahmed, 13.2 ov), 4-102 (Mohammad Nawaz, 15.2 ov), 5-110 (Mohammad Rizwan, 16.1 ov), 6-111 (Asif Ali, 16.3 ov), 7-112 (Khushdil Shah, 16.5 ov), 8-120 (Shadab Khan, 17.6 ov), 9-125 (Naseem Shah, 18.2 ov), 10-147 (Haris Rauf, 19.6 ov)
Bowling: Pramod Madushan 4-34, Wanindu Hasaranga 3-27, Chamika Karunaratne 2-33, Maheesh Theekshana 1-25
By Mustaq Sydeen