Watch: 6 needed off 2, Asalanka does the unthinkable, Afridi magic of no use | Cricket

The unceremonious exit of Babar Azam‘s men from the Asia Cup was never in the script for the aficionados, who anticipated a showdown summit clash between the traditional rivals – India and Pakistan. Doing the unthinkable in the virtual semi-final of the Asia Cup 2023 between Pakistan and Sri Lanka, middle-order batter Charith Asalanka emerged as the knight in shining armour for Dasun Shanaka and Co. with his valiant knock at R Premadasa Stadium on Friday.

Charith Asalanka (on strike) kept his calm in the last-ball thriller
Charith Asalanka (on strike) kept his calm in the last-ball thriller

Engaged in a seesaw battle with Sri Lanka in match No.12 of the Asia Cup, Pakistan failed to post a match-winning total after opting to bat first in its must-win encounter. Pakistan reinstated Fakhar Zaman as a last-minute addition to its playing XI for the 5th Super 4 of the Asia Cup. However, Fakhar showcased another batting failure as the Pakistani opener was cleaned up by Pramod Madushan in the 5th over.

ALSO READ: Pakistan vs Sri Lanka Highlights, Asia Cup Super 4: SL win thriller, to face India in final

Wellalage gets Babar

Playing a mediocre knock in Pakistan’s final Super 4 fixture, top-ranked batter Babar was outsmarted by young sensation Dunith Wellalage. Lifting late in the rain-marred contest, Pakistan steadied its ship with Mohammad Rizwan and Abdullah Shafique, who top-scored for the Green Army. Shafique scored 52 off 69 balls while Rizwan remained unbeaten on 86 off 73 balls. The wicketkeeper-batter was assisted by Iftikhar Ahmed, whose crucial knock of 47 off 40 balls powered Pakistan to 252-7 after the match was reduced to 42 overs per side.

Mendis joins forces with Samarawickrama

Producing a thrilling run-chase in the virtual semi-final, Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama forged a stunning 100-run stand to put Sri Lanka in the driving seat for a famous win. However, Pakistan staged a late comeback through Shaheen Afridi, who had hit Samarawickrama on the helmet when the batter was on 41. Iftikhar Ahmed dismissed Samarawickrama for 48 before Mendis received his marching orders in the 36th over. Mendis’ exceptional knock of 91 had kept Sri Lanka in the hunt for an outstanding win.

Enters Shaheen Afridi

Needed 42 off 41 balls, Sri Lanka lost skipper Shanaka although Asalanka continued to play the anchor role. With Afridi making amends for his awful opening spell, Sri Lanka lost its seventh wickets when the defending champions were eight runs short of a stunning win in the final six balls. Pace ace Afridi dismissed Dhananjaya with a low full toss before getting the better of Dunith Wellalage in the penultimate over.

Despite making a late comeback in the rain-curtailed encounter, Pakistan were outclassed by an Asalanka-inspired Sri Lankan side. Zaman Khan’s final over saw Pramod Madushan getting run out on the fourth ball. With 6 required off the last balls, Asalanka got lucky as the batter got an outside edge which earned him a welcome boundary. Needing 2 on the final ball, match-winner Asalanka clipped the full-length delivery behind square to hit the winning runs and break Pakistani hearts in the virtual semi-final.

Asalanka dumps Pakistan out of Asia Cup in last over

Asalanka remained unbeaten on 49 off 47 balls to make sure Sri Lanka finish ahead of Pakistan with a 2-wicket win at the Premadasa Stadium. The unforgettable win was Sri Lanka’s third-highest successful run-chase in the Asia Cup. Record-time finalists Sri Lanka (12) will meet India in the final of the continental tournament on Sunday.

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