Sri Lanka 𝐖𝐈𝐍 the #AsiaCup2022 🏆Scorecard: https://t.co/xA1vz7cSW0 https://t.co/IL3DaXmwIs
— ICC (@ICC) 1662918963000
The tournament was moved out of Sri Lanka to UAE because of the prevailing political and financial crisis. On Sunday, they at least managed to restore their cricketing identity as a powerhouse from the Indian subcontinent. Known as the Lions, they were roaring again when Chamika Karunaratne knocked over Haris Rauf’s stumps off the last ball of the match.
As It Happened
Rajapaksa came out to bat at 36/3 in the sixth over against a Pakistan pace attack that was breathing fire after Babar Azam won the toss and expectedly elected to bowl first. And when he deposited a Naseem Shah thunderbolt over the extra cover fence off the last ball of the innings, he ensured Sri Lankan bowlers had a decent total of 170/6 on the board to try the temperament of the Pakistani batting lineup.
Take a bow, Sri Lanka! 🙌 🙌Men’s #AsiaCup Champions for the 6️⃣th time! 🏆#RoaringForGlory #SLvPAK https://t.co/9xf2sjlIBX
— Sri Lanka Cricket 🇱🇰 (@OfficialSLC) 1662919120000
Once they found momentum, they hounded the Pakistan batting lineup like a pack of wolves sniffing the kill, fielding with their hearts on their sleeves and bowling with immaculate planning. The moment Babar fell for five flicking the ball to short fine-leg, Mohammad Rizwan flung his bat in frustration at the other end. Pakistan never recovered from the pressure applied on them.
Rizwan decided to take it upon himself to take the match deep with his 49-ball 55 but Hasaranga and Pramod Madushan (4/20), playing in his second game, chipped away with wickets to complete a convincing win.
This match was of great importance for Sri Lanka given the crisis back home. At 58/5 with their captain Dasun Shanaka gone slogging leg-spinner Shadab Khan in the ninth over, it seemed the occasion was getting to them. Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain complemented Naseem in bowling with brut pace.
When Naseem’s deadly inswinger knocked over the in-form opener Kusal Mendis’ stumps for a duck in the first over, Pakistan looked like pushing the Lankan batting on the backfoot with their raw pace.
Rajapaksa had claimed that this Sri Lankan team was playing to rebuild the brand of cricket that Sri Lanka played with a couple of decades ago. And he did exactly that. Fearlessness, calculative, exuberance and elegance—all blended in the right measure—Rajapaksa and Hasaranga started rebuilding the innings with aplomb. There was no chest-thumping in the middle from Rajapaksa even as each strike triggered fist pumps in the dugout throughout the innings. Rajapaksa was in a zone where nobody could gatecrash his party.
While Rajapaksa kept one end safe with his measured approach, Hasaranga improvised and started using the extra pace of the Pakistan pacers. Hasaranga got captain Babar scratching his head as he started exploiting every gap from mid-off to third-man in his innings which had five boundaries and one six in it.
When Hasaranga finally fell to become Rauf’s third wicket and 50th in T20I career, he had created a flutter in the Pakistan camp. The 36-ball 58-run partnership had brought Sri Lanka back in the game.
Rajapaksa, hitting gaps in front of the wicket while batting with Hasaranga, started moving around the crease with a steady head targeting all parts of the field. Muscling the ball wasn’t his way. He was timing it like he was batting on a concrete pitch. The wristy flicks sailed over fine-leg and the punch drives found the boundaries. The onslaught saw Shadab Khan drop two skiers at the back end of the innings. Clearly, Sri Lanka had to put the pressure back on Pakistan.