From NRR drama to nail-biter against PAK: Sri Lanka’s road to Asia Cup final | Cricket

“In the Asia Cup, we are talking about India-Pakistan rivalry… But don’t forget Sri Lanka are also there, and they have been winning the Asia Cup.” These were former India batter Sunil Gavaskar’s remarks while addressing the media a day before the Asia Cup 2023. And it seems this has turned out to be the case as Dasun Shanaka and Co. are ready to defend the title against India in Colombo on Sunday.

Sri Lanka players celebrate their two wickets win against Pakistan(AFP)
Sri Lanka players celebrate their two wickets win against Pakistan(AFP)

If we look at Sri Lanka’s campaign it has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. They almost made a first-round exit if not for a miscalculation gaffe by Afghanistan and engaged in another nail-biter against Pakistan at the Super 4 stage before making it to the finals.

A look at Sri Lanka’s campaign at Asia Cup 2023:

Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh: SL won by 5 wickets

Sri Lanka got their campaign underway with a handsome five-wicket victory against Bangladesh. Matheesha Pathirana, who had already presented his quality in the last edition of IPL, rose up to the occasion as Sri Lanka folded the Bangladesh innings for 164 in 42.4 overs.

Sri Lanka in response completed the run chase with 11 overs to spare and won the match by five wickets.

Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan: SL won by 2 runs

Despite starting the tournament with a five-wicket win, the defending champions found themselves in a precarious situation. Playing Afghanistan in their second encounter, Sri Lanka still needed a win, or at least stop their opponent within a certain bracket to make it to the next round.

So batting first the opening pair of Pathum Nissanka and Dimuth Karunaratne gave Lanka a good start. The pair added made good use of the field restrictions and added 63 for the opening wicket. However, they stumbled a bit in the middle and were reduced to 86/3 in 16.5 overs.

But wicketkeeper-batter Kusal Mendis helped Sri Lanka recover from the stutter and a solid finish by Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana powered them to 291/8 in 50 overs.

Afghanistan then were required to chase down the target in 37.1 overs to remain alive in the competition. Despite the uphill task Afghanistan kept themselves in hunt until the 37th over as veteran all-rounder Mohammad Nabi smashed 65 off just 32 balls. Rashid Khan then chipped in with an unbeaten 27 off 16 balls but they fell short by whiskers to complete the chase in 37.1 overs.

While Afghanistan were eventually bundled out for 289/10 in 37.4 overs, it was later revealed that they could have still made it to the Super 4 by reaching 295 runs by 37.5 overs.

Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh: SL won by 21 runs

Sri Lanka and Bangladesh once again met at the Super 4 stage and the outcome was still the same. This time it was Sri Lanka, who batted first and piled a respectable 257/9 in 50 overs. Sadeera Samarawickrama scored 93(72) and Kusal Mendis scored 50(73).

Barring Towhid Hridoy no other Bangladesh batters could resist the Lankan attack as they were bundled up for 238 in 48.1 overs. Hridoy scored 82(97) balls. Dasun Shanaka, Matheesha Pathirana, and Maheesh Theekshana scalped three wickets each.

Sri Lanka vs India: IND won by 41 runs

This can be called a missed chance for Sri Lanka as India successfully defended a modest 213 with spinner Kuldeep Yadav leading the charge. Sri Lanka produced a fine bowling effort as 20-year-old Dunith Wellalage completed his maiden five-wicket haul at the senior stage. He picked the prized wickets of Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and Hardik Pandya as India could only manage 213 in 49.1 overs.

Sri Lanka, however, in response could only muster 172 before running out of wickets.

Sri Lanka vs Pakistan: SL won by 2 wickets

This was another nail-biter as Sri Lanka got the better of Pakistan by two wickets to book a finale date with India. The encounter was hit by rain and overs were deducted twice. First it was revised to a 45-over contest, and was later reduced to 42-over a side.

The match went right down till the wire as both Sri Lanka and Pakistan finished at 252 from their respective 42 overs. However, Sri Lanka were declared winners as per the DLS rule.

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