Sri Lanka survived a near-car crash to sneak into the final of the Asia Cup with a thrilling 2-wicket win against Pakistan in the Super Fours encounter in Colombo on Thursday, September 14. When Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama were going great, it felt like Sri Lanka would steamroll the opposition, however, a harakiri in the end by their batters complimented by a solid bowling performance from Pakistan pacers meant the Men in Blue found themselves in a tricky situation needing six runs off the last two balls.
However, Charith Asalanka kept his cool to finish off the game for Sri Lanka as he got a lucky boundary off an edge on the penultimate delivery of the last over bowled by debutant Zaman Khan and he guided a full delivery towards square for a couple of runs to seal it for his side. Those two runs meant, Sri Lanka were into their 12th Asia Cup final (11th in ODIs) and will now meet India in the summit clash on Sunday, September 17.
Sri Lanka were dominating the chase despite losing both the openers early as Kusal Mendis and Samarawickrama, the top two leading run-scorers of the tournament were up to the task. The duo did what was required - just keep ticking the scorecard and wait for a bad ball to score a boundary as the required run rate never went beyond 6.2.
Mendis scored his fifty and the duo brought up a hundred-run stand. Just when it looked like both of them would take Sri Lanka to victory, in Iftikhar Ahmed, Pakistan found an unlikely partnership-breaker as Samarawickrama was stumped by Mohammad Rizwan.
Mendis and Charith Asalanka then took forward the game for their side. If not for a dropped catch by Rizwan of Asalanka, Pakistan would have been in the driver's seat as Sri Lanka were already under pressure. It showed when Mendis, who batted so well for his 91 got out with Mohammad Haris taking a brilliant diving catch at extra cover.
Skipper Dasun Shanaka followed suit as Iftikhar Had now three wickets. But since the required run rate was and around 6, Sri Lanka were still the favourites to win before Shaheen Afridi bowling the penultimate over turned the game on its head.
Sri Lanka required 12 runs off the last two overs and Shaheen gave just four runs while taking two wickets of Dhananjaya de Silva and Dunith Wellalage in two balls to leave the opposition in tatters. A run out in the last over didn't help by Asalanka with cool and calm head on his shoulders took his side to victory with an unbeaten knock of 49.
Earlier, Pakistan recovered to a score of 252 after Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed's 108-run partnership. Before the rain break, Pakistan were really struggling at 130/5 but Rizwan and Iftikhar's counter-attacking knocks after the resumption helped them recover to 252, which seemed like a quality total given the surface and the ground conditions for Sri Lanka to chase in 42 overs. But eventually, it wasn't to be in the end for Babar Azam's men.
Even though their campaign has ended, Pakistan will feel they are a better side than the last two results given the number of injuries in their side and will hope to come better and stronger in the World Cup, in two weeks from now as India and Sri Lanka play another Asian final.