Amidst a tapestry of enthralling narratives on the cricket field, it was Charith Asalanka who emerged as the towering figure, guiding Sri Lanka to a nail-biting two-wicket victory over Pakistan in a final-ball thriller held in Colombo. This dramatic win secured Sri Lanka’s place in their 11th Asia Cup final, where they are slated to clash with India this Sunday.

Srilanka beat Pakistan in Asia Cup 2023, SL vs PAK

Asalanka, resolute and unbeaten with 49 runs from 47 deliveries, masterfully steered his team through a tense pursuit. However, it was a triumph constructed upon the foundation of Kusal Mendis’ splendid 91 runs off 87 balls and Sadeera Samarawickrama’s well-fought 48 off 51 deliveries. Pakistan, despite their injury-plagued bowling attack’s valiant fight, will rue what could have been, as they came agonizingly close to staging an improbable come-from-behind victory.

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In a rain-shortened 42-over contest, recalibrated according to the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method, Sri Lanka faced the daunting task of chasing down 252 runs. They required a steady rate of six runs per over right from the outset. Fortunately for them, they possessed two in-form batsmen of the tournament in the form of Mendis and Samarawickrama. During their partnership, which yielded 100 runs for the third wicket, Sri Lanka seemed to have a firm grip on the game. They expertly rotated the strike while punctuating their innings with timely boundaries.

SL vs PAK, After losing from Srilanka “Naseem and Rauf”. @twitter

Remarkably, one striking aspect of this chase was that Sri Lanka never surged ahead recklessly, keeping the required run rate consistently at or below six runs per over. This approach exuded an air of control but also provided Pakistan with a glimmer of hope late in the game.

Both Samarawickrama and Mendis departed against the flow of the game, falling victim to the excellent Iftikhar Ahmed, who finished with impressive figures of 3 for 50 in eight overs. Samarawickrama ventured down the pitch, only to be stumped by an artful arm ball, while Mendis, attempting a lofted shot, found himself caught brilliantly by Mohammed Haris at short extra cover, with Haris diving full length to pluck the ball just centimeters above the turf.

At this juncture, Sri Lanka required 42 runs from 41 balls with six wickets in hand. Although Dasun Shanaka was dismissed shortly thereafter, Dhananjaya de Silva accompanied Asalanka as they chipped away at the target, reducing it to 12 runs needed from 12 deliveries with five wickets in hand at the commencement of the penultimate over.

SLvsPAK, After losing match from Srilanka, Babar Azam in heartbroken movement @twitter

Enter Shaheen Shah Afridi, who had endured a lackluster outing by his own standards until that point – eight overs bowled, conceding 48 runs, and failing to take any wickets. However, within the space of six balls, Sri Lanka found themselves seven wickets down, still needing eight runs with just six balls remaining. In the penultimate over, Afridi first had Dhananjaya caught at long-on off a low full toss, and then Dunith Wellalage edged one behind while attempting a forceful shot.

Then came Zaman Khan, the slinger who had endured a forgettable debut until that moment. His first five overs had conceded 32 runs, and Babar Azam had resisted deploying him earlier, opting to save him for precisely such a crucial juncture. Zaman had just conceded eight runs in his last over and was tasked with defending eight runs in the final over of the chase.

He allowed the tailender Pramod Madushan to take a single off the first ball, but remarkably, Asalanka decided to take a single off the third ball, leaving Madushan to face the crucial final deliveries with six runs needed from three balls. Pakistan had managed to tilt the game in their favor, but then a frantic mix-up between Madushan and Asalanka, as they attempted to steal a bye with the ball rolling towards the wicketkeeper, resulted in Madushan being run-out at the non-striker’s end. Sri Lanka, already a batter short due to Maheesh Theekshana’s hamstring injury during fielding, now required six runs from the last two deliveries, and suddenly, Pakistan held the edge.

However, fortune favored Sri Lanka as Asalanka managed to guide the ball between the wicketkeeper and short third man for a crucial four runs. With two runs needed from the final delivery – and a Super Over looming – Asalanka skillfully maneuvered an attempted yorker behind square leg, eliciting a collective sigh of relief from the packed Premadasa Stadium and securing an unexpected victory.

This dramatic climax was hardly anticipated when the day began with doubts about whether any play would be possible at all. Heavy rainfall had led to an almost two-hour delay in the start of the match, with Pakistan particularly anxious about further disruptions, as only a win would secure their place in the final. However, when rain inevitably interrupted the game again during their innings, it set the stage for a remarkable resurgence.

The match had commenced with the teams set for a 45-over contest, and Babar Azam’s decision to bat first did not seem the wisest choice for a significant portion of their innings. The Sri Lankan bowlers had a stranglehold on the game, both in the initial exchanges and the middle overs. The first five overs yielded just one wicket and a mere 13 runs, and by the end of the tenth over, Pakistan had cautiously crawled to a score of around 40. At this juncture, a brief burst of acceleration unfolded, with Abdullah Shafique and Babar Azam orchestrating sharp running between the wickets and consistently finding the boundary.

However, when Babar Azam lost his balance against a delivery from Wellalage, resulting in a stumping, it slowed down the proceedings once more. Sri Lanka continued to chip away at Pakistan’s vulnerable middle order. Abdullah Shafique, after reaching his maiden ODI fifty, perished while attempting an ill-fated pull shot off Matheesha Pathirana, providing a critical breakthrough for Sri Lanka.

Amidst this backdrop, Mohammad Rizwan emerged as the sole batsman displaying intent during this phase of the game. Nonetheless, he survived a couple of close calls, either of which, if capitalized on by the opposition, could have dramatically altered the course of the innings and possibly the entire match.

The first opportunity came in the form of a stumping chance, as Rizwan stumbled while attempting to flick a deceptive delivery from Dhananjaya. Fortunately for Rizwan, Kusal Mendis behind the stumps couldn’t gather cleanly. The second near-miss occurred when Rizwan’s attempted sweep resulted in the ball popping up off his glove towards a vacant short leg. Mendis, diving valiantly to his left, fell agonizingly short of reaching the ball with his gloves.

Despite these near escapes, wickets continued to tumble for Pakistan, and they found themselves at 130 for 5 in 27.4 overs when rain interrupted the game for the second time. While the ground staff had prepared for potential rain

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