Bhanuka Rajapaksa came to full potential slamming 71 off 45 balls to lift Sri Lanka from the jaws of defeat of 5 for 58 to victory by a 170 total for 6 wickets for the 21-year old Pramod Madushan Liyanagamage to destroy Pakistan with a thunderbolt 4-wicket take as Sri Lanka won a spellbinding final by 23 runs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium Sunday to take home the Asia Cup after 8 years.
Befitting the adage ‘cometh the hour cometh the man, Rajapaksa, arriving with Sri Lanka tottering on 3 for 36 in only the first ball of the sixth over after Sri Lanka had been put into bat, unleashed a clinical batting display to stall Pakistan’s charge that had threatened to put Sri Lanka out of contention by the ninth over of the innings with the cream of the Lankan batting back in the pavilion. Disaster struck Sri Lanka with Kusal Mendis bowled for a duck by Naseem Shah for a duck and Pathum Nissanka and Dhanushka Gunathilaka sent back by Haris Rauf with the score on 23 and 36 respectively. Rajapaksa pierced the boundary six times and belted one over the top adding 17 with Dhananjaya de Silva.
When skipper Dasun Shanaka was bowled for 2 by Shadab Khan with the score 58 off the fifth delivery of the ninth over it looked good as over for Sri Lanka. But Rajapaksa had other ideas going on to shoulder responsibility with aplomb in repairing the innings by a game swinging 58-run partnership for the sixth wicket with Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva off 30 deliveries. It proved to be was the centre piece to Sri Lanka’s comeback from the doldrums with Hasaranga thumping 36 off 21 packed with 5 boundaries and a six. He thundered to the very end adding an invaluable 54 off 31 w balls with Chamika Karunaratne who was on a run a ball 14 sending one over the top in the death overs.
The left arm Liyanagamage, a find from Hunugama, tore into the Pakistan batting claiming two wickets in two balls having the Pakistani skipper Babar Azam caught by Dilshan Madushanka for 5 and clean bowling Fakhar Saman for a duck in successive deliveries. The double strike jolted Pakistan to 22 for 2 after 3.3 overs before Mohammad Rizwan and Ifthikar Ahmed took the score to 93. But with the dismissal of Ahmed by Liyanagamage for 32 caught by substitute fielder Ashen Bandara Pakistan precipitated to 9 for 125 after 18.2. Rizwan was fifth out for a defiant 55 off 49 with 4 boundaries and a six with Pakistan finally facing the daunting hurdle of making 77 off 39. Chamika Karunaratne put the icing on the cake for a famous Lankan victory bowling Haris Rauf for 13., Liyanagamage finished with career best 4 for 34 in only his second T20 international with the impeccable Hasaranga 3 for 27 and Chamika Karunaratne 2 for 33 followed by Maheesh Theekshana 1 for 25. Bhanuka Rajapaksa carried away the Player of the Match award and Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva the Player of the Series award.
CHIEF SCORES: Sri Lanka 170/6 (20 Overs) (Bhanuka Rajapaksa n.o. 71, Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva 36, Dhananjaya de Silva 28, Chamika Karunaratne n.o. 14, Haris Rauf 3/29, Shadad Khan 1/28, Ifthikar Ahmed 1/21, Naseem Shah 1/40) Pakistan 148 (20 Overs) (Mohammad Rizwan 55, Ifthikar Ahmed 32, Pramod Madushan Liyanagamage 4/34, Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva 3/27, Chamika Karunaratne 2/33, Maheesh Theekshana 1/25)