Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s unbeaten 71 and Wanindu Hasaranga’s crucial contributions with both bat and ball fired Sri Lanka to their sixth Asia Cup title, as the island nation beat Pakistan by 23 runs in the final in Dubai on Sunday. Pramod Madushan and Hasaranga shared seven wickets between them to bowl out Pakistan for 147, while Rajapaksa notched up his third T20I fifty to drive his team to 170-6 after being reduced to 58-5.
Rajapaksa and Hasaranga put on a key 58-run partnership for the sixth wicket after Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf inflicted damage in the powerplay. Naseem truck in the opening over as he bowled Kusal Mendis for a first-ball duck, after which Rauf removed Pathum Nissanka (8). Rauf then sent the off stump cartwheeling in his second over with a fiery 150-plus delivery that had Danushka Gunathilaka walking back for just 1. The clip of Rauf’s wicket-taking ball was instantly viral on social media.
Former South Africa pacer Dale Steyn was among the many users who lavished praise on Rauf for swinging the ball in at 151kph. “Ooof that was beautiful,” wrote Steyn, who is South Africa’s all-time highest wicket-taker in Test cricket and widely rated as one of the greatest bowlers of all time.
Sri Lanka kept losing wickets as Dhananjaya de Silva’s stay was cut short by Iftikhar Ahmed on 28, while skipper Dasun Shanaka fell prey to Shadab Khan. Rajapaksa and Hasaranga kept producing regular boundaries to elevate the scoring rate.
Rauf’s third wicket was Hasaranga, who got out after hitting five fours and one six in his 21-ball innings. Rajapaksa finished the innings with a four and six off Naseem in his 45-ball knock and also put on a 54-run stand with Chamika Karunaratne.
Pakistan, in reply, folded for 147 in 20 overs as Sri Lanka bounced back from an embarrassing opening defeat versus Afghanistan to win the six-team competition.
“It could happen to any good team. It happened to us for a good reason. We had serious discussions after that. We have players with good calibre, and they stood up well. That’s where we became champions,” said Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka.
Pakistan skipper Babar Azam also congratulated the islanders for the way they played. “I want to congratulate Sri Lanka. Outstanding cricket. The way we dominated them early, their partnership after that was outstanding,” said Azam.
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