Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Asia Cup final, Mirpur March 8, 2014

Thirimanne ton takes SL to title

605

Sri Lanka 261 for 5 (Thirimanne 101, Jayawardene 75, Ajmal 3-26) beat Pakistan 260 for 5 (Fawad 114*, Misbah 65, U Akmal 59, Malinga 5-56) by five wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Somewhere between absolute relaxation and intense focus, Lahiru Thirimanne drew strength from a place of zen in the Asia Cup final, stroking 101 from 108 to complete a victory that snapped Sri Lanka's finals jinx. He had help from Mahela Jayawardene, who embellished his reputation as a big-match performer, but it had been a fearsome lone hand from Lasith Malinga that had given most shape to the triumph. His five wickets for 56 deservedly earned him the Man-of-the-Match award on a day when no other Sri Lanka bowler took a wicket.

Those contributions proved enough to comfortably overcome Fawad Alam's maiden hundred, which had been borne of astute accumulation as he and Misbah-ul-Haq launched an epic recovery, then completed in a frenzy at the death. That 260 for 5 was eventually achieved was admirable, but Sri Lanka surpassed that score with five wickets in hand and 22 balls remaining. Pakistan may conclude they had been at least 20 runs light. They may also rue errors in the field that saw both Thirimanne and Jayawardene reprieved.

Thirimanne's idol Kumar Sangakkara had been cock of the Asia Cup walk for much of its duration, but in the final, his Padawan eclipsed him twice over. Thirimanne eased past Sangakkara on the tournament run-scorers' list, finishing comfortably atop the table with 279 runs. He also hit a hundred in a tournament final - a feat that has eluded Sangakkara in his 13-year career. Thirimanne would not have opened had Tillakaratne Dilshan been fit for the tournament, but he has now made a forceful case for a long-term place in the top three.

Malinga had largely saved his best work for the close in this tournament, but in his first three menacing overs with the new ball, he had gutted the Pakistan top order, and intimidated the opposition into prolonged reticence. Sharjeel Khan struck him for two spiffing offside boundaries, but Malinga soon swung one in to the left-hander to have him chipping to mid-on. His away-swing to the right-handers got Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez nicking behind in quick succession as well. Shehzad had aimed a punch through cover, Hafeez merely hung his bat out.

Misbah and Fawad were joined at 18 for 3, but slaves to a poor situation now, neither ventured the early aggression that might have helped set up a tall score. Pakistan's run-rate was below three until the 22nd over, and increased only in modest increments until the final flourish.

In contrast, Kusal Perera crashed Sri Lanka through the early overs of the chase, wailing on short balls like they owed him money while crunching sweet drives through the covers as well. He grew more selective with his slashes for the final, minimising some of the risks in his game, though the plays-and-misses were not altogether omitted. He made little use of a reprieve on 35, when Sharjeel Khan backpedaled unnecessarily at deep midwicket to tread on the rope, but his 42 off 37 ensured Sri Lanka would not be restrained inside the Powerplay, as Pakistan had been.

Perhaps Kusal could have been more watchful when Saeed Ajmal arrived, but the ball to dismiss him was a stunner. Drawing Kusal out of the crease with a flighted one, delivered wide of the crease from round the wicket, Ajmal had the ball dip and grip, beating Kusal's prod to create an easy stumping. Kumar Sangakkara barely registered the straighter one that thudded into his front pad next ball, replays showing it to be clipping leg stump. Jayawardene got a fizzing doosra for a hat-trick ball, which to his good fortune, would have missed the off stump.

Desperate for runs after a poor tournament, Jayawardene played Ajmal's first spell desperately late, reading intently out of the hand and off the surface, thrusting bat in front of pad to prevent an lbw. He squeezed through that gauntlet, girded somewhat by the sublime late cut that brought his first four, and then began to progress more freely. When he deposited a Shahid Afridi short ball deep into the leg-side stands in the 18th over, the steel in his eyes had returned in force. Typically, he prospered behind square on the off side, scoring almost 40% of his 75 runs there.

Thirimanne had watched Kusal's barrage, and Jayawardene's stutters from the other end, and all the while resisted both over-ambition and the shackles of big-match pressure. Exquisite strokes square of the wicket on either side punctuated a steady beat of singles, as he scored at around a run-a-ball through the middle overs. Umar Akmal had grassed a thick outside edge off him at 36, but the remainder of his progress was as smooth as his strokeplay.

Jayawardene departed after their 156-run partnership had set Sri Lanka in sight of the win, and Thirimanne completed his third ODI hundred in Angelo Mathews' company. Having played several vital hands throughout the tournament, Mathew was fittingly at the crease to strike the winning runs.

Earlier, Misbah had taken stately, dignified singles as the collapse was arrested, while Fawad poked and pilfered them. They scored more freely off the spinners than the fast men - an oddity for this tournament - and perhaps they were glad not to face Ajantha Mendis, who had been dropped for this match, despite having been the Asia Cup's most penetrative bowler before the match.

The pair looked ominous in the first over of the Powerplay, from which they plundered 13, but Misbah would fall to Malinga soon after, inspiring a brief return to caution from Fawad. Akmal blasted successive boundaries in the 41st over off Perera to set Pakistan's charge in motion once more, and this time, Fawad joined him in earnest. He was 67 from 106 before another six over long-on began the sequence that would bring him 47 off the next 28. Fawad was dropped for the second time on 92, as de Silva parried a chance over his head at cover off Malinga, and he would move to triple figures for the first time in ODIs with an aerial whip over deep midwicket in the 48th over.

Akmal's 59 off 42 was the fire in Pakistan's finish, but they had given away too much ground in the opening exchanges. Malinga completed his second five-wicket haul of the tournament when Akmal top-edged a slog in the final over.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on March 11, 2014, 12:54 GMT

    It was never Ind vs SL affair, I dont know why some SL and some Indian fans are fighting on this forum, India vs Pak excitement and euphoria cannot be created by Ind vs SL......how boring, its always been Ind vs Pak, no need for SL fans to try and compete with India, SL was always just another team for India....

  • GrindAR on March 10, 2014, 17:15 GMT

    Sanga plays innings in most games leading to final, and DPMDJ complements with the defining innings in the final. So, when you count Sanga and DPMDJ form as a package for a team, who can win matches, with one being WK and other being close positions catcher... I donno if any such formidable pair being formed for any team for such a long time consistent performances...

  • Darkmanx12155 on March 10, 2014, 7:48 GMT

    All the fans seems to forget one point here... Well done SL and Thiri Slinga all that... But the true hero who gave the game on a sliver platter to SL is non other than Misbah. No one seems to thank him for his contribution of the match which made it possible for SL to win. IF he walked when he nicked it, then it would have been Akmals chance to go against SL bowlers. Like we all saw, it wasn't a mine field of a pitch to bat on. Just that Misbah couldn't score fast! If Afridi got 25 to 35 balls to bat SL would have been chasing something like 325 +. So SL fans, pls show your gratitude to the true MOM...

  • ramz_01 on March 10, 2014, 5:14 GMT

    how ppl say SL depnding on sanga nly? SL won match frm losing position bcz of malinga vs pak sanga vs india mattews vs bangaladesh thirimana vs pakistan. overall SL not depnding on sanga nly, thr is match winners given day whm wil put thr hands up, hats off to lions whm crownd as asian gaints.

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on March 10, 2014, 3:42 GMT

    Pakistan need to improve their batting if they want to compete at international level. On the deciding day, their bowling got derailed as well. Something is not right with the ways of Pakistan.

  • INDSlider on March 10, 2014, 1:52 GMT

    @ sidh78: But stats don't lie mate. Our cupboard is full of trophies we accumulated from shorter formats. But our boasting is far from reality. This shows win/loss ratio against top teams Aus, SA and Eng in away matches for different periods. Still SL and Pak are well ahead us. Link shows the results for the last 3 years. We are just home bulies let alone flat tracks.

    1990s:SL-0.42 Pak. 0.55 Ind-0.31 2000s: SL-0.50 Pak. 0.42 Ind-0.65 Last 5 years: SL-1.00 Pak. 0.54 Ind-0.39 Last 4 years:SL-0.95 Pak. 0.61 Ind-0.42 Last 3 years: SL-0.94 Pak. 0.68 Ind-0.28 Last 2 years:SL-1.00 Pak. 0.63 Ind-0.80 Last 12 months:SL-infinity Pak. 0.53 Ind-0.66

    http://stats.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/stats/index.html?class=11;home_or_away=2;home_or_away=3;opposition=1;opposition=2;opposition=3;result=1;result=2;result=3;result=4;result=5;spanmax2=07+Mar+2014;spanmin2=07+Mar+2011;spanval2=span;team=25;team=6;team=7;team=8;template=results;type=team

  • Hamed-G on March 10, 2014, 0:57 GMT

    Congrats SL. Future is bright and your administraion / team is doing great job. Being a paki fan and national watching the final, i dont know why pak loss didnt bother me at all. SL victory for some reason still gave me that sensation / feeling of 'win' instead of bitternest/frustration or even anger. I guess its maybe cuz of the 'attitude' of neighbour and both SL and Pak having given india what it deserved. SL support of Pak through the Big 3 OR you cud say Pak's support of SL - has made SL the 2nd most loved team for all Paki's after Pak.. All the best to SL for T20.

  • dhanuhskaS on March 9, 2014, 18:28 GMT

    As pointed out in many of my postings since last year, Thirimanne is a naturally talented opening batsman with perfect technique to give a solid start & establish an inning (with a perfect strike rate in ODIs) as well as the ability to stay long in Tests. But, unfortunately he was denied this chance until now & floated all-over down the order, preferring a "privileged" lucky-go-happy SLOGGER to fill the opening slot created by SLC (unjustly axing another established opener Tharanga). Upul Tharanga's feat of reaching 5000 in 157 iings is the 2nd fastest by a SL player in ODIs (Athapattu took 152 innings to achieve that). He is the ninth SL player (64th overall) to complete 5,000 runs or more in ODIs - 5153 (13x100 + 28x50) at an Av. of 34.81 in 164 ODI. Just 29yrs! When Dilshan retires, he is the best SL opener to carry forward to the future with Thirimanne! Chandimal is another talented front-order batsmen who needs a correct spot to bat, but never got! What a waste of talent SLC.???

  • SLWATERBOY on March 9, 2014, 17:44 GMT

    Congratulations to all you SL boys! Perfect ending. It was a perfect building from UAE to Bangladesh bi lateral series and Asia Cup. These experiences in past couple of months will set SL team up nicely for the T 20 world cup too. Every body in the team played the part well even the youngsters this time except Chandimal. I think Chandi's spot has to go to Priyanjan. Mahela, Hats off to you, simply because you delivered again once it's needed the most!

  • Jawlal on March 9, 2014, 15:44 GMT

    Dat was a superb team effort from SL....how beautifully they played,how beautifully they performed....it was really marvellous & smooth win....Pakistan looked no match to SL in this game......Both India & Pakistan have to learn a lot from SL....