Karachi, July 24: The final of the inaugural Under-17 Asia Cup Cricket Tournament tomorrow (Tuesday) here at the National Stadium between Pakistan and Sri Lanka promises a close encounter.
Both teams finished unbeaten in the league phase of the 10-team competition, which started on July 15, before scoring comfortable victories over Bangladesh and the Emirates Cricket Board in the semifinals at the weekend.
The tournament, funded by the International Cricket Council (ICC)'s Development Office for Asian Region and partly sponsored by Habib Oils Mills, has been an unqualified success, inspite of India's absence, since it provided the lesser known teams an invaluable cricketing lesson.
According to Nasim-ul-Ghani, the ICC development officer for the Asian region and chairman of the Asia Cup organizing committee, the purpose of staging this tournament was to promote the game in countries where cricket is generally considered a secondary sport.
Sri Lanka start as slight favourites for technical reasons because their youngsters are products of school cricket back home which is of high standard and quality in comparison to Pakistan where its existence is marginal.
Skipper Jehan Jayasuriya, all-rounder Jeewan Mendis, Eashan Abeysinghe, wicket-keeper/batsman Ishan Mutalip, pacers Omesh Wijesiriwardena and Dammika Niroshan and off-spinner Damith Gunatilaka have performed exceedingly well in the previous matches.
On the other hand, Pakistan will be heavily relying on skipper Salman Butt and his fellow opener Khalid Latif for runs. The rest of the batting was rarely tested because the team hardly required it.
Off-spinner Munir Ansari has been the most successful bowler in the tournament with 15 wickets. Leg-spinner Zaheer Maqsood and the slow left-armer Pir Zulfiqar Ali have provided decent support while leftarm pacer Najaf Shah has also done quite well with the new ball.
Two factors may ultimately decide the match: fielding and discipline. Here again Sri Lanka have achieved better results than the hosts.
The pitch appears to be ideal for a high-scoring match, which starts at 10.00 am.
Pakistan: Salman Butt (captain), Khalid Latif, Kashif Ijaz, Faisal Khan, Salman Qadir, Khurram Ibrahim, Adnan Akmal (wicket-keeper), M. Altaf Hussain, Munir Ansari, Zaheer Maqsood, Pir Zulfiqar Ali, Najaf Shah, Nadeem Javed and Mian Adnan.
Sri Lanka: Jehan Jayasuriya (captain), Ishan Mutalip (wicket-keeper), Haresh Ratnayake, Eashan Abeysinghe, Jeewan Mendis, Sahan Wijeratne, Prasad Ranawaka, Omesh Wijesiriwardena, Dammika Niroshan, Ishara Dilshan, Damith Gunatilaka, Shankara Perumpuli, Janitha Hewawasam and Malintha de Silva.
Umpires: Salim Badar and Shakeel Khan.
TV umpire: Masroor Ali.
Match referee: Naeem Ahmed.