The 22nd edition of the Asia Cup came to a close after the Lankan Lions outshined their Pak counterparts in a blockbuster finale on Sunday. The emphatic win by 23 runs helped Sri Lanka earn their 6th title are only behind India in terms of title victories. However, Shanaka and his troops were considered amongst the weakest of the sides ahead of the tournament and therefore such a scintillating performance has amused most cricket pundits. After an embarrassing defeat in their first match against Afghanistan, they went on to win 5 matches in a row, defeating heavyweights like India and Pakistan comprehensively.
From decline to revival: SL’s journey in the last 5 years
After stalwarts like Sangakarra, Jayawardene and Malinga retired from the game, Sri Lankan cricket was facing a huge challenge in terms of rebuilding the side with new promising players. Post 2015, Sri Lanka saw a downfall in its prominence as a leading cricket nation as the string of poor results exposed their inconsistency. But as the wise men say, it is never too late! The Asia Cup in 2022 might be recorded as a moment of historic significance in the books of cricket. Players like Bhanuka Rajapaksha, Kusal Mendis and Wanindu Hasaranga evolved as bonafide matchwinners, with skipper Dasun Shanuka exhibiting his exceptional leadership prowess that rescued the team in times of adversity.
How the team lacking world-class players lifted the Asia Cup
The WT20 in Australia will be the next big stop for the team. Unlike most of the other participating teams in the Asia Cup, the champions will need to go through the qualification stage to enter the final round. This clearly what a turnaround this trophy-winning campaign has been for the Asian giants. Another highlight from their Asia Cup journey was the controversy between them and Bangladesh, where key players and members of the respective team managements fired shots at each other. Bangladesh coach Khaled Mahmud called Sri Lanka a team with no world-class players when the Sri Lankan skipper called Bangladesh an easier opponent than Afghanistan. Mahmud’s definitely did not go well with the players and the Asia Cup victory is proof of that.
SL Captain acknowledged CSK’s IPL 2021 win serving as a big boost
The triumph also comes at an important juncture when the island nation is currently under an economic crisis. Sri Lanka, the original hosts for the Asia Cup 2022, therefore lost the hosting rights as the tournament was shifted to UAE. Netizens thus hailed Sri Lanka’s dreamy journey in the UAE. Many touted it to be the golden hours amidst the gloomy days of darkness.
In IPL 2021, Chennai won the match batting first and that is what was in my mind. These youngsters know the conditions really well. Wanindu made a huge impact after losing five wickets. Chamika and DDS batted really well too. The last ball six was the turning point. 170 was mentally the difference, as 160 always feels chasable.Dasun Shanaka at the post match presentation ceremony
The last time Sri Lanka won the Asia Cup, they even went on to clinch the WT20 title. Will history repeat down under? Only time can answer that question. But the revival of Sri Lankan cricket definitely lifts the bar of competition in the dynamics of present-day cricket.
Read Also: WT20 2022: India’s ideal XI
After losing the toss, the Sri Lankans were off to a disastrous start. Losing their top-order batters cheaply within the powerplay, at the end of the 9th over, Sri Lanka was 58-5. Pakistan bowlers were completely dominating the game. But the late partnerships between Hasaranga and Rajapaksha coupled with the fireworks in the death overs guided them to a competitive total of 170/6. Pakistan’s sloppy fielding proved too costly for them as the momentum had clearly shifted to the opposition camp.
Pakistan too was quite shaky in the powerplay losing their captain Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman in two successive deliveries. After the partnership between Rizwan and Iftikhar broke, wickets kept tumbling down. Their sluggish batting approach failed miserably to control the required run rate. Pramod Madhushan, who was playing only his 2nd T20I match, starred with the ball with 4 dismissals to his name. Pakistan bundled out on the last delivery of the match. The Lankan Lions defeated the former for the second time this week. The victory also defied the popular strategy of batting second as the best gameplan in T20 cricket.
Sri Lanka 170/6 (20 overs): Rajapaksa 71*, Hasaranga 36; Rauf 3-29, beat Pakistan 147 (20 overs) Rizwan 55; Madushan 4-34, Hasaranga 3-27 by 23 runs.