Sri Lanka vanquished Pakistan in a last-ball cliffhanger by two wickets, courtesy a platform-setting innings by Kusal Mendis, and a crucial finish by Charith Asalanka. A run chase of 252 in 42 overs was always going to be difficult, but a pair of solid middle-order partnerships paved the way for Sri Lanka to pull off a remarkable feat against a formidable Pakistan attack.
Chasing 252, Kusal Perera got off to the quickest of starts, hitting four boundaries in seven deliveries, before a direct shot from Shadab Khan at point caught him short at the bowler’s end despite a desperate dive. The early setback did not deter Sri Lanka, as Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka maintained the required run-rate in a fifty-run stand before Pathum Nissanka misjudged a return catch to Shadab.
Sadeera Samarawickrama then joined Mendis at the crease and scored quickly, punishing poor deliveries and, most crucially, rotating the strike so the bowlers couldn’t work them over. In addition, a bouncer from Shaheen Afridi struck Samarawickrama on the cranium, necessitating a test for concussion. However, the Sri Lankan batsman appeared to have been rescued by his headgear, and he and Mendis went on to score a hundred-run partnership.
The very next ball, however, Samarawickrama stepped out to Iftikhar Ahmed, flicking for nonexistent spin, and was consequently stranded. Another 33-run stand ensued, between Asalanka and Mendis, but the latter popped a leading edge to cover where Mohammad Haris scooped up a remarkable catch plunging forward.
Then it began – a procession that began at 210-3 and ended at 246-8, giving us an exciting conclusion. Shanaka returned to Iftikhar, who was proving to be a thorn in Sri Lanka’s side, shortly thereafter. At the other end, Asalanka kept up with the required rate with well-timed boundaries, but then Shaheen Shah Afridi took two wickets in an over while conceding only four runs, leaving Sri Lanka in a precarious position with eight runs to score off six balls and three wickets remaining.
Pramod was run out in the final over without his helmet, but not before he had given Asalanka the strike. The latter was under duress after Zaman Khan conceded only two runs off the first four balls, but he edged the penultimate delivery for four to tip the scales in favor of Sri Lanka. Asalanka won the match with a delayed half-volley on the pads, sending the Colombo audience into a frenzy more than an hour after midnight.
Previously, Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first, but early on they lost Fakhar Zaman. After Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam’s fifty-run partnership, Pakistan’s middle order imploded prior to the rain break, falling to 130-5. However, a century partnership between Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed rescued them, and a late counterattack by the duo brought Pakistan to a respectable total, which was ultimately insufficient.
This is Sri Lanka’s twelfth appearance in the Asia Cup final. India will be their opponent in the final on September 17.
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