Pakistan pacers started with a bang before Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s brilliant 71 not out took Sri Lanka to a challenging 170 for 6 in the Asia Cup final in Dubai on Sunday.
It was a good toss to win for Babar Azam until Rajapaksa’s calculated assault at the death saw 50 runs being scored off last 4 overs.
Young Naseem Shah (1/40 in 4 overs) and the uber cool Haris Rauf (3/29 in 4 overs) bowled with a lot of pace and fire extracting movement off the track as they broke the backbone of the Lankan batting within the Powerplay overs before Rajapaksa scored one of his finest fifties considering the situation that his team was in.
The spinners leg-spinner Shadab Khan (1/28 in 4 overs) maintained his prolific consistency that has been one of the hallmarks of Pakistan team in this tournament.
However, Rajapaksa (71 of 45 balls) and Wanindu Hasaranga (36 off 21 balls) added 58 quick runs after Sri Lanka was left gasping for breath at 58 for 5.
There was another 54 run stand with Chamika Karunaratne and Sri Lanka did cross the 160-run mark. Shah, the 19-year-old pace sensation, bowled one of the most lethal off-cutters seen in this tournament as it pitched back of length but moved in sharply, giving no time to in-form Kusal Mendis (0) to bring his bat down.
While Dhananjaya de Silva (28 off 21 balls) did hit some picturesque cover drives, there was no support literally from the other end.
Pathum Nissanka (8), got a fuller outswinger from Rauf, which he mistimed while Danushka Gunathilaka (1) got a nice outswinger (inswinger for left-hander) which was fast and full, pegging his stumps back.
Once the pacers dismissed three out of the top four batters, the pressure increased and De Silva offered a simple return catch to Iftikhar, who isn’t even their regular spinner.
While pacers forced the Lankan batters with pace and movement, if any player, who could be blamed for atrocious shot selection would be Dasun Shanaka, who was clean bowled by Shadab trying to hoick a fuller delivery from the wrist spinner over cow corner.
However Rajapaksa with his all-round strokeplay did give Sri Lankan total lot of respectability. He hit six fours and three sixes and the flick off Naseem for a maximum was a treat for the eyes.