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June 8, 2000
The final of the Asia Cup was as absorbing as expected considering there was hardly anything between the two sides. Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka had the ammunition in their ranks to blast the opponents out. The one thing that the final proved was that if the main strength of any team falters on the day of reckoning it would be disastrous. The fielding of Sri Lanka was incredibly appalling with as many as six catches being dropped and the three beneficiaries, Anwar, Inzamam and Moin Khan made them pay.
The customary efficiency of Vaas in the early overs was absent and the Pakistanis got off to a good start. Saaed Anwar has the ability to come good at the right time and he decided that the final was as good as any other important game. He used the sweep shot to maximum effect to counter the Sri Lankan spinners. The key to his sweeping successfully was that he concentrated on placing the ball rather than hitting hard. Inzamam took his time to settle down and the onus was on him to consolidate the innings as the main batsmen were dismissed.
The Sri Lankans depend heavily on Muralitharan and he delivered as efficiently as a postman to stem the flow of runs during the middle overs though it was Zoysa who got the wickets. Realising that there was some aid for the spinners from the wicket, Jayasurya brought himself on. In fact he dismissed Anwar who was out to an ordinary shot after a very good effort. The arrival of Moin Khan always gets the crowd excited in anticipation not to mention the discomfort in the opposing camp. As usual he walked in to bat at a pivotal time and a lot depended on him to steer the course of the innings. Inzamam in the meanwhile developed cramps in the calf muscle and there was no way he could have kept up with his captain in running between the wickets.
At the end of 40 overs, the match was in balance and neither had established any authority over the other. It was expected of Moin Khan to get some quick runs, but what he ended up doing was simply mind-boggling. The improvisations were out of this world and at times definitely too cheeky. His blitzkrieg motivated Inzamam to come out of his shell and the pounding this duo gave the Sri Lankan bowlers was akin to the Hiroshima bombing. The final ten overs were a nightmare for Jayasurya and his boys and Moin Khan ran away with the match with his superb innings.
The Sri Lankans needed Jayasurya to fire on all cylinders along with Kaluwitharana to keep their hopes alive. With Kaluwitharana departing without facing a ball, Vaas was sent to tonk the ball around the park. It is not an easy job pinch-hitting when Wasim Akram has the ball in his hands. In no time the Sri Lankans lost three wickets and much depended on the experienced pair of Aravinda and Atapattu. De Silva looked a shadow of himself and he could not force the pace like he normally does. His dismissal left Attapattu on his own along with the inexperienced lower order. Arnold provided Atapattu company to put up the highest partnership of the innings.
Atapattu's century may not have won the match for his team but it was an innings of high quality. Chandana gave some hopes towards the end of taking Sri Lanka to an unlikely victory but the re-introduction of Akram ensured that nothing of that sort happened. In the end it was a convincing victory for the Pakistanis and the first success in the Asia Cup. This triumph is coming on the heels of victories at Sharjah and the triangular series in the West Indies. Moin Khan led from the front and the main batsmen produced runs as and when required. The Sri Lankans can draw some solace from the fact that it was one of those days where nothing went right for them.
The Asia Cup provided the public of Bangladesh with some fantastic entertainment besides sidelining the controversy of match fixing currently prevailing in the sub-continent. The only country, which would forget this edition of the Asia Cup in a hurry, is India, as they were knocked out of sight far too early. In comparison with the other full member countries, the attitude, fielding and motivation level of individuals was far below par and it is a pity that the trend has carried on for far too long. Somebody must be accountable for the continuing debacles but there are enough shelters to hide under for the time being.
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