By BV Swagath
Sri Lanka defeated defending champions Pakistan to clinch Asia Cup 2014. Lahiru Thirimanne who scored a century in the opening game against Pakistan finished the tournament with a century in the Final as well.
The Sri Lankan victory was set up by Lasith Malinga’s early burst of three wickets with the new ball. Pakistan electing to bat first after winning the toss straightaway were on the backfoot at 18 for 3 inside 4 overs. Sharjeel Khan was dismissed in the first over caught flicking Lasith Malinga to mid wicket.
Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez were caught behind by Sangakkara off Malinga. Sri Lanka struggled to make further inroads as Skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Fawad Alam revived the innings with a 122-run stand.
Misbah-ul-Haq perished in the deep trying to accelerate the scoring in the batting powerplay. The Pakistani Captain scored 65 from 98 balls with 3 fours and 2 sixes. Fawad Alam with a maiden ODI century and Umar Akmal with a sizzling 59 from 42 balls with 7 fours provided a terrific finish for Pakistan.
Fawad Alam remained unbeaten with 114 from 134 balls with 8 fours and 3 sixes. Pakistan finished with a highly competitive total of 260 for 5. Lasith Malinga captured a five-wicket haul.
The Lankans got off to an ideal start of 56 in 10 overs before Saeed Ajmal pegged them back with the wickets of Kusal Perera and Kumar Sangakkara in consecutive deliveries. Perera was stumped out after getting beaten by a turning off break while Sangakkara was out for a first ball duck to an arm ball which had him lbw.
Mahela Jayawardene who has been struggling to get any runs reserved his best for the Final. The former Lankan Skipper played second fiddle to Lahiru Thirimanne to put SL back on the track. The duo added 156 runs to put SL on the brink of victory. Even when Mahela got out for 75 (from 93 balls with 9 fours and a six) in the 38th over, Pakistan had no chance what so ever of coming back in the contest.
Lahiru Thirimanne almost finished the match with his superb knock of 101 from 108 balls with 13 fours. Sri Lanka cruised to victory by 5 wickets with 22 balls to spare. Malinga was the Man of the Match while Lahiru Thirimanne was the Player of the Series.