Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in their round robin clash in the Asia Cup 2014 © AFP
Sri Lanka beat Pakistan in their round robin clash in the Asia Cup 2014 © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

Mar 7, 2014

 

It is fair to say that two clear favourites of the tournament have made it through to the final of the Asia Cup 2014. Pakistan and Sri Lanka have had good league campaigns and are moving into the final on an even handed note. While Sri Lanka may have beaten Pakistan in their league game, things are very different in the final and one can expect Pakistan to be buoyed after their last two victories. Sri Lanka have been the more clinical side in the tournament, but Pakistan are an unpredictable opposition.

 

It is interesting to note that both Sri Lanka and Pakistan had tough victories against Bangladesh in their respective last league games coming into the final. While Pakistan chased down a big total courtesy a Shahid Afridi special, Sri Lanka needed the grit of Angelo Mathews to get them through to victory in a tricky run-chase. This will serve as a good wake up call for both sides leading up to the final.

 

Sri Lanka made a few changes to their side against Bangladesh and one may feel Lasith Malinga would come back. But, it would be interesting to see if they would persist with Sachithra Senanayake or play the Suranga Lakmal with Malinga coming back. Chathuranga de Silva proved himself with the bat and was decent with the ball, so he should hold on to his spot. Thisara Perera will also hold on to his spot as he is their reliable all-rounder lower down the order.

 

The batting order is quite good with Kusal Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne at the top. Kumar Sangakkara is in good touch and so is Mathews. But, there are some concerns about Mahela Jayawardene as he hasn’t been in very good touch off-late. Dinesh Chandimal may also warrant a return to the side in place of Ashan Priyanjan.

 

Pakistan have a good settled unit and it seems as if only Mohammad Talha’s spot may be in danger after the last game. But, then that would also allow Junaid Khan to get back into the line-up. They may persist with Abdul Rehman as well although he had a shocker against Bangladesh. Saeed Ajmal and Afridi are the key men with the ball as the pitch is slow and they can hold up the middle overs. Plus, they may also have Fawad Alam after his decent performance against Bangladesh. He may only see himself out if Sharjeel Khan is fit. Or perhaps, Sohaib Maqsood can make way for Sharjeel to come in, which would allow Alam to hold on to his spot.

 

In the batting, Ahmed Shehzad is the key batsman at the top. He can attack and has also shown the ability to stay in the middle. If Sharjeel doesn’t play, then Mohammad Hafeez will open the batting with Shehzad. Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal are in the middle-order and have contrasting styles to boot.

 

Thus, the defending champions have a tough task ahead as they face Sri Lanka. This should be a good game and the spinners can dominate courtesy the slow surface.

 

Squads:

 

Sri Lanka: Angelo Mathews (c), Kushal Perera, Lahiru Thirimanne, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Mahela Jayawardene, Dinesh Chandimal, Ashan Priyanjan, Chathuranga de Silva, Sachithra Senanayake, Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera, Suranga Lakmal, Dhammika Prasad, Ajantha Mendis.

 

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Ahmed Shehzad, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Akmal (wk), Sohaib Maqsood, Fawad Alam, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul, Abdul Rehman, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Talha, Bilawal Bhatti, Anwar Ali.

 

Time: 8:00 GMT I 13:30 IST

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)