Coming to Asia Cup 2014, Pakistan were the champions and many would have thought that they would repeat the feat in this year’s tournament as well. However, as it turned out, Sri Lanka performed better on the big day and was crowned the new champions of Asia on International Women’s Day at the Shere Bangla National Stadium of Mirpur, Dhaka.
Form: It is often said that in cricket form is temporary and class is permanent but Sri Lanka proved that wrong to some extent. Coming to the finals, the team had been in sterling form winning every single match convincingly – this would have prompted many to think that they may get entangled in the law of averages but that did not happen.
Batting: Before the finals, the form of the top order had been a major issue for Pakistan. None with the exception of Afridi and Hafeez had produced runs on a consistent basis. In the final too, this depressing malaise repeated itself with none of the openers or Mohammed Hafeez getting to double figures. However, Fawad Alam produced the finest innings of his short one day career with a century to boot and was well supported by fifties from Umar Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq, who had not scored much in the matches preceding the final.
Thirimanne with a century led the reply for Sri Lanka. His innings was even more praiseworthy since he was carrying a minor injury during the game. Mahela Jayawardene supported him well with a half-century, which was remarkable given that he had not scored many in the other matches of the tournament.
Bowling: This was one area where the former champions were expected to have an advantage but however, it turned out that Sri Lanka bowled better in the final. Even though Lasith Malinga took all the wickets of Pakistan in the final – 5 of them – the others supported him well with economical bowling. Sri Lanka also pulled off a major coup by deciding to bench Ajantha Mendis and go in with that extra seamer in Suranga Lakmal, who justified his inclusion with the most economical bowling for his team.
In comparison, Pakistani fast bowlers struggled to make much of an impact. Ajmal bowled the best with 3 for 26 but the others proved to be ineffective. This proved to be crucial in the final, as pointed out by Misbah after the match.
What this means for both the teams: For Sri Lanka this will be a major boost before the ICC World T20 considering the tournament will be played in Bangladesh as well. As far as Pakistan is concerned the final would have shown the chinks in its armor and what it would need to do to be more effective a few days later when the World T20 begins. However, the team should also take heart from the last-ditch wins against India and Bangladesh and know that they have the wherewithal to counterpunch when they are down and out.