Colombo, Sep 14 (IANS) Charith Asalanka struck a brilliant unbeaten 49 after Kusal Mendis (91) and Sadeera Samarawickrama (48) laid the foundation with a century stand and guided defending champions ri Lanka to a two-wicket victory against Pakistan in a thrilling final Super 4 match and into the final of the Asia Cup.
Sri Lanka made it to the final for the 11th time in the Asia Cup and will meet India in the final. This is their second final in a row.
Chasing a DLS readjusted target of 252 in a rain-truncated 42-overs-a-side match that ended well past midnight, Sri Lanka rode on a superb performance by their middle order after Pakistan had recovered from 130/5 to post 252 thanks to a memorable rearguard partnership between Mohammad Rizwan (86 not out) and Iftikhar Ahmed (47).
But Sri Lanka survived some anxious moments in the last two overs to scrap through to the final. And it was Kusal Mendis that held the Sri Lanka innings together that set them up for victory.
Coming in after Sri Lanka lost Kusal Perera (17) with the score reading 20, Mendis added 57 runs for the second wicket with Pathun Nissanka (29) and then added exactly 100 runs for the third wicket with Sadeera Samarawickrama (48) to take Sri Lanka to 177/2.
While Samarawickrama missed his half-century, Mendis coincidentally also failed to achieve a landmark as he was out for 91, caught by Mohammad Haris off Iftikhar Ahmed for 91. He hammered eight boundaries and one six in his fine innings.
But by the time he was out, Mendis had already guided Sri Lanka to a strong position. He completed his half-century off 47 balls, hitting five boundaries. He and Samarawickrama raised 50 of their partnership and the century of their partnership in 97 balls as Sri Lanka remained on course. This was the second time that Mendis got out in the nervous 90s in this Asia Cup.
After Mendis was out, skipper Dasun Shanaka did not last long and was out for 2 going for a big hit (Sri Lanka fell to (222/5). Charith Asalanka guided the hosts to victory with an unbeaten 49 in an edge-of-the-seat thriller as they lost a couple of wickets in one eventful Afridi over. Sri Lanka needed seven runs off the last six deliveries but Zaman Khan did well to keep it down to six off 2 before Asalanka came good, his nerves of steel as Sri Lanka reached 252/8 in 42 overs.
Earlier, Pakistan rode on a superb rearguard 108-run partnership between Mohammad Rizwan and Iftikhar Ahmed, the highest for the sixth wicket in the Asia Cup, after the early fall of wickets to post 252/7 in 42 overs in a rain-delayed match.
The start for Pakistan wasn’t what they expected, as yet again Falkhar Zaman departed early. Skipper Babar Azam and Abdullah Shafique held the inning and added 64 runs for the second wicket as Shafique reached his half-century.
Babar yet again became the prey of a left-arm spinner, as Dunith Wellalage pulled him forward in defense and got his wicket.
Pakistan were in a spot of bother at 130/5 after 27.4 overs, but then rain interrupted play and pretty much turned their fortunes. The ball started spinning less and got a bit damp, as Ifthikhar and Rizwan took full advantage of the better batting conditions.
Both the batters showed calmness and played less risky shots but managed to pull the game in the death overs. The superb partnership added 108 runs on the score for the sixth wicket which is now the highest in ODI in the Asia Cup for Pakistan.
Rizwan turned up a gear to rack up a 73-ball 86, while Iftikhar Ahmed hammered 47 off 40.
Matheesa Pathirana was the star with the ball, gave an early shock to Pakistan, and sent well-set Abdullah Shafique and Mohammad Harris before he ended his spell with figures of 3 for 65 in 8 overs.
After DLS adjustment a run has been taken off Sri Lanka’s target. Pakistan finished at 252. Sri Lanka’s target will also be 252 in 42 overs.
Pakistan 252/7 in 42 overs (DLS) (Mohammad Rizwan 86, Abdullah Shafique 52; Matheesa Pathirana 3-65, Maheesh Theekshana 1-42) lost to Sri Lanka 252/8 in 42 overs (Kusal Mendis 91, Sadeera Samarawickrama 48, Charith Asalanka 49 not out; Iftikhar Ahmed 3-50, Shaheen Shah Afridi 2-52) by two wickets.