Colombo: A brilliant knock by Kusal Mendis, and handy contributions of from the blades of Sadeera Samarawickrama and Charith Asalanka, saw Sri Lanka securing a thrilling 2 wicket win over Pakistan, ensuring a place in Asia Cup final for the 11th time in their history.
Pakistan’s bowlers, led by Shaheen Afridi, Shadab Khan, and Iftikhar Ahmed, put up a spirited fight, but to no avail in a must-win match for both sides at R Premadasa Stadium here past Thursday midnight.
Mendis amassed 91 runs off 87 balls, while Samarawickrama contributed 48 runs off 51 balls. The final twist in the tale came with Asalanka, scoring a brilliant, unbeaten 49 runs off 47 balls.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat against Sri Lanka as rain played a significant role in shaping the match, leading to multiple overs being shaved off from the original 50-over format. Initially reduced to 45 overs, the match was further curtailed to 42 overs.
Pakistan’s innings began with an early setback as opener Fakhar Zaman fell victim to an inswinger from Pramod Madushan. This early breakthrough provided Sri Lanka with the perfect start.
Nevertheless, a resilient partnership between Abdullah Shafique and skipper Babar Azam saw Pakistan recover, amassing 64 runs from 70 balls. But the rising star from the last match, Dunith Wellalage, once again made his mark by breaking the partnership and dismissing Babar Azam for 29 runs off 35 balls.
Subsequently, Muhammad Haris was dismissed for just three runs off nine balls, and Abdullah Shafique’s well-made 52 runs off 69 balls came to an end.
It was then the turn of wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed to shine, as they orchestrated a brilliant partnership, accumulating 108 runs from 78 balls.
This partnership propelled Pakistan to a total of 252 runs, with Iftikhar Ahmed eventually getting dismissed for 47 runs off 40 balls.
Pakistan managed to score an impressive 102 runs off the last 10 overs, showcasing tremendous resilience after the rain break. Rizwan accelerated, scoring a remarkable 86 runs off 73 balls.
After adjusting the target with the DLS method, Sri Lanka was set a target of 252 runs in 42 overs. Matheesha Pathirana’s impressive three-wicket haul made Sri Lanka’s chase on track.
Sri Lanka’s innings began with a blazing start from opener Kusal Perera, who scored 17 runs off eight balls before getting dismissed by an excellent throw from Shadab Khan, creating pressure for Sri Lanka.
Nonetheless, a partnership between Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis added 57 runs off 60 balls, tilting the match in Sri Lanka’s favour. But Shadab Khan once again proved to be the difference-maker, breaking the partnership by dismissing Nissanka for 29 runs off 44 balls.
The seesaw battle continued as Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama formed a promising partnership. However, Iftikhar Ahmed’s three crucial wickets tilted the contest back in Pakistan’s favour.
Brief Scores: Pakistan 252-7 in 42 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 86*, Abdullah Shaique 52, Matheesha Pathirana 3-65) lost to Sri Lanka 252-8 in 42 overs (Kusal Mendis 91, Charith Asalanka 49*, Iftikhar Ahmed 3-50) by 2 wickets.