Asia Cup 2022: This win will help us gain momentum ahead of final, says Nissanka

The 21-year-old opening batsman scores unbeaten half-century as Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by five wickets

Sri Lanka's Pathum Nissanka plays a shot during the match against Pakistan in Dubai on Friday. — AFP
Sri Lanka's Pathum Nissanka plays a shot during the match against Pakistan in Dubai on Friday. — AFP

Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 10 Sep 2022, 12:21 AM

For the record, the result in Friday’s Super Four clash between Sri Lanka and Pakistan will have no bearing on the final of the DP World Asia Cup which the two teams would contest on Sunday.

But the atmosphere in the stands, which saw both sets of fans turn up in big numbers, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium — also the venue for Sunday’s final — was electric as both teams went at full throttle to gain a psychological edge.

In the end, it was Sri Lanka that came away from the game with smiling faces as Dasun Shanaka’s team held their nerve to beat Pakistan by five wickets.

Having bowled Pakistan out for a paltry 121, Sri Lanka reached home in 17 overs to record their fourth straight win in the tournament.

With his second straight half-century in the tournament, opener Pathum Nissanka (55 not out off 48 balls) guided the Lankans home despite a spirted challenge from the Pakistan bowlers.

Earlier, Wanindu Hasaranga (4-0-21-3) came up with a wonderful display of turn and control on a good wicket to bat.

The leg-spinner broke the back of Pakistan’s middle-order by dismissing captain Babar Azam (30), Iftikhar Ahmed (13) and Khushdil Shah (4).

Babar, who failed with the bat in the previous four matches, top-scored with 30, but the Pakistan captain was guilty of not converting his start.

The elegant opener was bowled by Hasaranga after being beaten in flight while going for a big shot.

“I am really happy because last few games I went for some runs. I have come back strong with some good quality wickets, so I am happy. I tried bowling dot balls in the first few overs, that's why the three wickets came," Hasaranga said.

Hasaranga was well supported by off-spinner Maheesh Theekshana (4-0-21-2) after Sri Lanka captain Shanaka won the toss and elected to bowl.

Pakistan were in danger of being bowled out for less than 100 when they lost their seventh wicket for 95.

But Mohammad Nawaz, the hero of the team’s stunning Super Four win over bitter rivals India with a stunning 20-ball 40, scored an 18-ball 26 to give the Pakistan bowlers a glimmer of hope.

Poor start

In the absence of Pakistan’s rising star Naseem Shah, who was rested for the match, Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf made a great start with the new ball.

Hasnain got Kusal Mendis caught in the slips for a golden duck after the batsman played away from the body and Danushka Gunathilaka’s attempted square cut landed in the hands of wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan off Haris.

When Haris got his second wicket of the match in the form of Dhananjaya de Silva with the Lankans in a bit of trouble at 29 for three, Pakistan saw an opportunity to make some more inroads into the Sri Lanka batting line-up.

But Nissanka remained solid and rebuilt the Lankan innings with Bhanuka Rajapaksa (24) in their 51-run stand for the fourth wicket before steering the team to a highly impressive victory.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for Sri Lanka, which suffered an embarrassing defeat to Afghanistan in the opening game of the tournament when they were bowled out for 105 on August 27.

Nissanka was among the eight Sri Lankan batsmen that failed to reach the double figures against the Afghans.

But the 21-year-old opening batsman has shown his class with three important knocks, 35 against Afghanistan in the first Super Four clash, 52 against India in the next match before Friday’s match-winning 55 not out against Pakistan.

“Because of the three all early wickets, it gave me the allowance to play my natural game and see the team over the line,” said Nissanka, the 21-year-old opening batsman.

“Although there was extra pace from the Pakistan bowlers, I backed my skill and knew what to do. This win will help us to gain momentum and we are looking forward to doing well in the final as well.”

While the Lankans are on a roll, Pakistan got a reality check after their back-to-back wins over India and Afghanistan in the Super Four.

“Our batting wasn't up to the mark after the powerplay. We have made mistakes and have a discussion before the final," captain Babar admitted.

Meanwhile, Pakistan rested Shadab Khan and Naseem for this game as leg-spinner Usman Qadir, the son legendary leg-spinner Abdul Qadir, and Hasan Ali got their first matches of the tournament.

Sri Lanka also made two changes with Dhananjaya de Silva replacing Charith Asalanka, and Pramod Madhusan playing in place of Asitha Fernando.

Brief scores:

>> Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by five wickets.

>> Pakistan 121 all out in 19.1 overs (Babar Azam 30, Mohammad Nawaz 26; Wanindu Hasaranga 3/21, Maheesh Theekshana 2/21, Pramod Madushan 2/21)

>> Sri Lanka 124-5 in 17 overs (Pathum Nissanka 55 not out, Bhanuka Rajapaksa 24, Dasun Shanaka 21; Haris Rauf 2/19, Mohammad Hasnain 2/21, Usman Qadir 1/33)

Did you know?

>> Teams have preferred to bat second after winning the toss in Dubai at the Asia Cup 2022. The chasing teams have won six of the eight matches in Dubai, the venue of Sunday’s final

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