Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 7, 2014

Can Sangakkara rise for the final?

Kumar Sangakkara's form in Bangladesh this season has been sublime. But his record in ODI finals has not

People in Bangladesh have got used to watching Kumar Sangakkara bat long and bat often this year. He has been insatiable in these conditions against all sorts of bowling, but in the Asia Cup final against Pakistan in Mirpur, Sangakkara will have something to prove. Sri Lanka need him to play a defining innings, which has largely eluded him in tournament finals.

Sangakkara has scored 931 runs in 10 matches - two Tests, two Twenty20s and six ODIs - in Bangladesh this season. His aggregate is third on the list of runs in a season in a particular country away from home: Viv Richards scored 1045 in England in 1976 and 1057 in Australia in 1984-85.

Sangakkara's delight in batting at the moment was evident in how he made 76 against Afghanistan. He was getting beaten outside off stump by Mohammad Nabi, and for a while he looked like any other left-hand batsman. However, any other batsman might have gone after little-known Nabi out of pride, but Sangakkara was able to show the bowler the respect he deserved at the time, and then move on to succeed.

He seems to bat without an ego, a quality every aspiring batsman should cultivate, but sometimes Sangakkara needs to lose that habit and play with a bit of arrogance. It could give his proficient game another gear. Something like what Aravinda de Silva used to shred India in the 1996 World Cup semi-final.

Since 2009, Sangakkara has either played second fiddle in finals that Sri Lanka won, or he wasn't effective enough to win his team the game. Among the 38 batsmen who have more than 500 runs in ODI finals, Sangakkara has the 15th highest average. For a batsman of his stature, the fourth highest run-getter in ODIs, that is an anomaly.

In 26 finals, Sangakkara has scored 1023 runs at an average of 40.92. He does not have a hundred. In 13 of those games that Sri Lanka won, he top-scored in only three innings. He is missing a big score in finals, the sort of innings Sanath Jayasuriya, Aravinda de Silva, Marvan Atapattu, Mahela Jayawardene and Tillakaratne Dilshan have played.

The first final Sangakkara top scored in was in 2004, against Pakistan in Lahore. His 68 took Sri Lanka from 35 for 2 to 181 for 4. The second was in 2006, against Australia, when he made 83 in the first final of the VB series. Sri Lanka lost the next two. Three years later, against Bangladesh in Mirpur, Sangakkara made 59 off 133 balls in a tri-series final. Chasing 153, Sri Lanka were 6 for 5 but he steadied the innings before becoming the seventh wicket to fall, with 39 runs to get. Muttiah Muralitharan finished the job.

Sangakkara's ODI career is 14-years old and illustrious, but there is a gap he might like to fill. He has another chance on Saturday.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here

Comments