By Srian Obeyesekere
Sri Lanka’s decisive face off against Pakistan in a virtual knockout clash in today’s day-night Asia Cup contest at the R. Premadasa International Cricket Stadium seeking to make it to the finals against India on Sunday will require a herculean effort by the host teams frontline batsmen. Greater resolute batting will indeed be the demanding name of the game for the top order batsmen to deliver in a comeback from the 41-run defeat to India two days ago if the defending champions are to go the full distance of retaining the Asia Cup in a reality run up of having to see off two of the topmost heavyweights in that final countdown. While the current performance standings puts the Lankans on a footing of making it to the finals in the event of a rain washout on a faster Net Run Rate to Pakistan with the weather forecast making it a high possibility, Dasun Shanaka’s charges have like last year, just managed to make it to the Super Four defeating Afghanistan with the lead up to the defeat against India having been on the back of close wins.
It is pertinent that the virtual baby of the side 20-year old Dunith Wellalage proved to be an example with the bat to the more senior long in the business batters to take a leaf from by his gutsy showing showcased by the unbeaten 42 when the rest bar No. 5 Dhananjaya de Silva who made 41, failed to come good against India who stopped Sri Lanka’s landmark thrust of a record 13 ODI wins on the trot in becoming the second team in history to do so behind Australia’s 23 wins. The lesson there is best defined by the failure of the Lankan batting machine to have oiled up on what was a clear winning advantage created by young Wellalage who outfoxed India’s top order in bowling the seven times Asia champions for 213.
Certainly, the clarion call for Sri Lanka into the decisive challenging heavyweights battle scenario of the 16th edition of the Asia Cup is to pull up their socks to raising their game to potential heights in that final run up to the big spoils. if the defending champions are to go the ultimate distance of retaining the trophy. Wellalage, who happened to make the eleven by chance in the absence of the injured Wanindu Hasaranga, did play a trojan like all-round role against India to showing the way in the final reckoning where both Pakistan and India are tall orders to get past.
As for, Pakistan Babar Asam’s men did produce the type of scintillating cricket that threatened to downsize India in the group stage game at Pallekelle which was stalled by rain though being totally outplayed by their arch rivals in the preceding contest. Lije the weather, Pakistan is therein unpredictable in big stake affairs, and the Lankans will have to be at the top of their game if the are to get the better of them today.