In an eagerly awaited showdown, Rohit Sharma’s Indian cricket team is poised to take on the surprising underdog Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final on Sunday, a match of significant importance as both teams prepare for the upcoming ODI World Cup.
Together, these cricket powerhouses boast an impressive total of 13 Asian titles. Sri Lanka, known for its knack for reaching tournament finals, has once again found its way to the championship match, causing some disappointment among those anticipating a clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan.
India’s unbeaten streak in the 50-over tournament was halted on Friday when they were narrowly defeated by Bangladesh, falling short by just six runs in the final Super Four match in Colombo, where Sunday’s final will also take place, despite Shubman Gill’s outstanding century (121 runs). Reflecting on the loss, Gill stated, “I don’t believe it has derailed our momentum. We’ve played good cricket. Sometimes these wickets can be tricky. I was well-set and should have seen the game through.”
Gill believes that securing India’s eighth Asia Cup title would instill “confidence” in the team as they approach the World Cup, set to begin at home on October 5.
India’s campaign commenced with a rain-affected match against Pakistan in Pallekele, where Pakistan’s fast bowlers rattled their top order. However, India rebounded with centuries from Virat Kohli and KL Rahul, posting an impressive 356-2 to defeat Pakistan by 228 runs.
India earned their place in the final by overcoming a spirited Sri Lankan chase. Nevertheless, Gill cautioned that Sri Lanka remains a formidable adversary: “We need to raise our game and give our 100 percent to beat them.”
Sri Lanka, previous champions of the Asia Cup in T20 format, entered this year’s tournament as underdogs. However, they advanced to the Super Fours with a dramatic win over Afghanistan and continued to excel on their home turf. Despite losing to India, they managed to eliminate Pakistan in a knockout match, securing their 11th Asia Cup final appearance.
Captain Dasun Shanaka remarked, “We came without our key players, but still we managed to make the finals.” Injuries sidelined Dushmantha Chameera and Wanindu Hasaranga, but other players stepped up.
Impressive performances from Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka propelled Sri Lanka to victory in a rain-shortened match, eliminating the favored Pakistan team from the tournament. Emerging fast bowler Matheesha Pathirana and left-arm spinner Dunith Wellalage have been standout performers, leading the tournament’s bowling charts with 11 and 10 wickets, respectively.
Wellalage made a significant impact by taking five wickets, including the prized scalps of Kohli and Rohit, in their Super Four encounter against India. Interestingly, Sri Lanka has previously suffered defeats to India in the Super Four stage of the Asia Cup, only to bounce back and defeat them in the finals, accomplishing this feat in 2004 and 2008.