Lasith Malinga (left) proved to be the telling difference between both sides © AFP (File Photo)
Sri Lanka remained undefeated in the Asia Cup, as they won the title for the fifth time by beating Pakistan. Abhijit Banare presents talking points of the final.
The old Lasith Malinga is back
How many yorkers can Malinga bowl in an over? six? Well even if he can, his excellence lies in having faith in other variations as well. Throughout the Asia Cup 2014, Malinga has used the trademark toe-crushing yorker judiciously. But that doesn’t mean batsmen relax. Sharjeel Khan though, turned out to be a victim of Malinga’s new trap. Sharjeel’s confidence sky-rocketed having smashed two boundaries off Malinga. Suddenly, he felt as though the fuller deliveries too are meant to be hit out of the park. The next thing that happened was the fuller delivery yielded one wicket and the good length deliveries were equally good enough to fetch two more.
Malinga is back, but he is much more cleverer now than just using to toe-crushers blindly. Not to forget, another variation up his sleeve which was hardly seen in this tournament and that is the slower bouncer. Probably he has kept it for ICC World T20 2014. Those three wickets in consecutive overs by Malinga, set the momentum in Sri lanka’s favour.
Pakistan though, recovered brilliantly, the eventual total was never going to be a daunting one. Here, it has to be remembered only Malinga can achieve bizarre statistics. This is the first time, a bowler has bagged all the wickets to fall in an innings with a five-for.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq (batting in picture) came to their rescue once again with a fine innings © AFP
Misbah-ul-Haq is still the crisis manager
The only thing that seems to remain constant about Misbah is his hunger to save Pakistan from crisis situations and the anticipation of fans to see him score a century (which never happens). Or to put it dramatically, Misbah has missed scoring a century on 37 occasions (every time he scored a fifty). At 18 for three, Misbah was all set to dig deep and do the repair work. The innings by Fawad Alam only made things easier for the Pakistan skipper. He is now the oldest skipper to lead Pakistan at 39 years and 284 days, as of March 9. And next time Pakistan play an One-Day International (ODI) series, he might cross 40. Age is just a number for Pakistan fans when Misbah is rescuing the team. His 65 runs and the 122-run partnership with Alam once again put Pakistan back in a fine position after they found themselves in a spot of bother early on.
Fawad Alam essayed a century for Pakistan in Asia Cup 2014 final against Sri Lanka © AFP
Fawad Alam: Moustachioed men are still in vogue
Leave alone the moustache, when Fawad goes on one knee trying to slog over midwicket, it seems as though Fawad is a duplicate version of ’Sir’ Jadeja. And as far as the stance is concerned, at least we know now Shivnarine Chanderpaul has inspired someone. With this two unique features, Fawad scripted his maiden ton. Looking at his style of batting, he doesn’t have an ideal game to play aggressively. Right through the innings one could hear the awkward sound of ball hitting the toe end of the bat. Yet he hung on and accelerated towards the end.
Kusal Perera’s batting was full of fireworks in the Asia Cup 2014 final game against Pakistan © AFP
Sanath Jayasuriya watches his look-alike!
There’s something about aggressive batsmen which keeps viewers and commentators delighted. There is no logic or pattern to their batting which makes the unpredictability a fun to watch. Kusal Perera would be delighted to record a sparkling performance in front of the legend he admires — Jayasuriya. Remember MS Dhoni telling the value that Virender Sehwag brings by scoring quickly at the start? It allows others to play their natural game. Sri Lanka have found a player who can do this job for years to come.
Mahela Jayawardene (batting in picture) saved his best for the final of the tournament © AFP
Sri Lanka’s man-friday for finals
Mahela Jayawardene and big-match situations go hand-in-hand. It was embarrassing to see a world-class batsman struggling innings after innings. On Saturday, Jayawardene settled in and found his touch. But once the confidence started building, those late cuts and other shots started flowing from his willow. Losing the best batsman in the side for golden duck didn’t deter him. He was in his own zone rebuilding the innings and accumulating runs with Thirimanne. His knock of 75 from 93 balls just shut the door on Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Sharjeel Khan made a mess of a catch on the boundary line. Photo Courtesy: StarSports.com
Which of the two is more lethargic, Fielding or bowling?
In an era, where fielders take spectacular catches defying gravity, Sharjeel did the 19th century error of taking a catch and stepping on the boundary line. If that wasn’t enough, the failure to keep the batsmen under pressure by denying them quick singles was missing. When Jayawardene and Thirimanne realised that they were going to remain unchallenged while taking singles, they took singles at will. The bowling of Pakistan was a continuation from the Bangladesh match. Barring Saeed Ajmal, none looked penetrative enough to suffocate the batsmen from the other end. Much of Ajmal’s work was undone.
Lahiru Thirimanne was in sublime touch in the Asia Cup 2014 final © AFP
Lahiru Thirimanne lands knockout punch
All the three left-handers in the top three of the Lankan batting have been excellent and unique in their style. Perera goes for the shots, Sangakkara likes to sweetly time his drives. Thirimanne enjoys playing behind the wicket with glides down to third-man and hitting past point. It’s not just his promotion in the opening but the maturity with which Thirimanne played his innings was noteworthy. Third century — two of it coming in this series shows how well Thirimanne has adapted himself as an opener. Even after Jayawardene departed, Thirimanne refused to give up and continued the vigil.
All in all, it was a clinical performance from Sri Lanka. The new players are establishing themselves in the side and it showed in their performance against Pakistan in the final. It would be interesting to see how well they adapt in future. They truly deserve the Asia Cup title.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)