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Sri Lanka's players celebrate their victory at the end of the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket final against Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai. Image Credit: AFP

Sri Lanka stormed to their sixth Asia Cup triumph by winning the fifth game in a row. With the 23-run victory over Pakistan in the final at the Dubai Cricket Stadium, the Dasun Shanka-led team upended the trend of batting second to win matches as they restricted Pakistan to 147 all out after scoring 170/6.

Nine of the 13 games were won by teams which chased totals. The final too looked set to follow the pattern when Pakistan opted to bowl first and had the Sri Lankans on the mat at 58/5 before the completion of the ninth over.

Full of praise

Pakistan coach Saqlain Mushtaq was full of praise for Sri Lanka. “The toss doesn’t matter for a champion side. And Sri Lanka showed just that. They played brilliant cricket. We [Pakistan] dominated for the first nine overs; after that, it was Sri Lanka all the way. [Bhanuka] Rajapaksa took the game away from us.”

But Bhanuka Rajapaksa (71 off 45 balls) and Wanindu Hasaranga (36 off 21) inspired a fightback, and Sri Lanka had a fighting total. When Pakistan’s chase began, Dilshan Madushanka bowled a nightmarish over with 8 wides and no-ball before he bowled the first legal delivery of the innings.

All that was put behind by Promod Madushan’s double strike, which rocked Pakistan in the powerplay. They never recovered and fell badly behind the asking rate, despite Mohammad Rizwan’s gritty 55. That was when leggie Hasaranga delivered a triple strike in the 17th over, and Pakistan’s chase was as good as over.

Madhushan came away with 4/34 and Hasaranga’s 3/27 came after his 36 with the bat. His consistent displays won the Player of the Tournament award

Whole nation

An elated Shanaka said, “I am dedicating the win to the whole nation. They were waiting for it for so long, especially the final.”

Looking back at the inconsistent displays in recent times, Shanaka said, “The players have been playing good cricket for two, three years, but the winning factor was not there. This will be a real good turnaround in our cricket. This lot will continue for another five-six years. So that will be a very good sign for us.”

The win in Dubai will give Sri Lanka the impetus heading towards the T20 World Cup that starts in Australia next month.