Before the Asia Cup 2014 started many would have thought that Pakistan and Sri Lanka would be the two sides who meet in the final. One could not have found a fault with such thoughts as there were plenty of reasons going in favor of the two teams. While Pakistan boasted of the finest bowling line up in the tournament, Sri Lanka were arguably the best batting team and had the finest fielding unit. In addition, they were more experienced than India and Bangladesh, the other contenders who were both largely inexperienced, and were in better form with Pakistan having won an away series against South Africa and Sri Lanka having blanked Bangladesh in a preceding one-day series in Bangladesh itself.
Form: Sri Lanka has been in red hot form throughout the tournament with victories in all the 4 matches of the group stage. Pakistan, on the other hand, has lost to Sri Lanka and defeated Afghanistan, India and hosts Bangladesh, with the latter couple of victories coming courtesy a brace of swashbuckling innings from Shahid Afridi.
Composition: It is unlikely that any of the teams will be making any change. However, Sri Lanka may be forced to bench Suranga Lakmal who performed well against Bangladesh in order to accommodate Lasith Malinga.
Comparative analysis of strengths: As far as batting is concerned Sri Lanka holds the aces with the likes of Sangakkara, Mathews and Thirimanne showing good form. They also have names like Chandimal and Mahela Jayawardene who are yet to come good in this tournament and it would indeed be an added bonus if they were to perform well in the final. Plus, they have the likes of Chaturanga de Silva and Thisara Perera coming in later on in the batting order, which gives their batting some added depth.
Pakistan’s batting on the other hand has improved of late. Umar Akmal performed well in the match against Afghanistan and then Afridi and Hafeez scored runs in the next couple of matches. However, in the final analysis it is still not in the same league as that of Sri Lanka in terms of experience and this could be a crucial factor in the final.
With regards to bowling, Pakistan has a fantastic pace attack of Gul, Junaid Khan and Talha. They may have been a little expensive but they do have the wherewithal and experience to clinch tight contests for the team. The spin attack featuring Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez has been performing really well and on these slow and low tracks will be the team’s main weapon.
Sri Lanka, on the other hand, has a bowling unit that has been delivering consistently. Malinga bowled well in the first game against Pakistan and from then onwards Ajantha Mendis and Chaturanga de Silva have performed well. Lakmal had a good outing against Bangladesh and Thisara Perera is an important cog in the wheel of the Sri Lankan seam attack.
Predictions: Based on what has happened so far, it may be said that Sri Lanka start as favorites but it must also be remembered that they are yet to lose a match in the tournament and the law of averages could catch up with them. Pakistan has shown much nous and grit in coming up to the finals after losing the first encounter. In all, it can be said for sure that this will be an interesting game for cricket aficionados with no one quite sure about which way the fortunes will lean.