Sri Lanka are set for an unexpected Asia Cup win over favorites Pakistan in Sunday’s final, following a huge-killing streak through the tournament despite domestic troubles. The island nation had to abandon plans to host the Twenty20 competition due to political unrest and stumbled by eight wickets in its opener for Afghanistan with almost 10 overs to spare. But the five-time champions returned to defeat Bangladesh, Afghanistan and tournament favorites India, foiling a hotly anticipated final showdown between Rohit Sharma’s men and the arch-Pakistan.
Friday’s Super Four match was a dress rehearsal for the Dubai final – and Sri Lanka’s fourth straight win, though Pakistan lost two of their key players.
On Sunday, they will rely on the spin duo of Wanindu Hasaranga and Mahesh Thekshana, who bundled out Pakistan for 121 in an easy five-wicket win on Friday.
Opener Pathum Nisanka took the lead in the clinical show with an unbeaten 55 but skipper Dasun Shanaka warned his team of complacency.
“Our confidence is very high after four consecutive wins, but we still don’t take Pakistan lightly in the finals,” Shanaka told reporters.
“We know they are a very good team and they have a lot of good players to come back strong and we should be prepared for that.”
Sri Lanka recently did well in a two-Test home series against Pakistan, played in Galle against a backdrop of a punishing economic crisis and political unrest.
Shanaka said his side had been showered with “messages of love and support” and that the success of the Asia Cup brought them back home after disappointing months of blackouts, fuel shortages and protests.
“So good that we are winning and giving them something back,” he said.
– Confidence and passion –
Pakistan is facing its own troubles at home due to the monsoon floods, which have submerged a third of the country.
But the team has shone through the tournament, lifting a curtain for next month’s T20 World Cup in Australia, avenging India’s opening game loss and securing a last-over thriller against Afghanistan.
Fast bowler Naseem Shah and all-rounder Shadab Khan both missed out on Friday’s performances but will add to Sri Lanka’s troubles when they return for the final.
The 19-year-old Naseem has maintained the lead over Pakistan’s bowling attack in the absence of pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who was ruled out of the tournament due to injury.
He also hit two sixes in a dramatic one-wicket win over Afghanistan which ensured India’s exit.
Batting remains a concern, with skipper Babar Azam managing a tournament best of just 30. Mohammad Rizwan is the only consistent performer with 226 runs in five matches.
But coach Saqlain Mushtaq said he has full faith in his team despite Azam’s “unfortunate” run.
“The latest match we won against India, we chased it down and batted well.
“Things are moving in the right direction and we are confident.”
Pakistan’s recent defeat against Sri Lanka may have stalled their momentum, but Saqlain said the team will heed the lessons of Friday’s match-up.
Saqlain said, “I will talk about mistakes in the dressing room, but Sri Lanka in the final and will give Pakistan some confidence to learn and passion.”
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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