Pakistan and Lanka set to lock horns in Asia Cup prelude

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Both Lanka and Pakistan are likely to field a second-string team to misguide each other and reserve the best for the final. File

Mohammed Abdullah, Senior Sport Reporter

A rampaging Pakistan and a resilient Sri Lanka will look to fine tune their preparations for the final in the dress rehearsal of the Asia Cup title showdown in Dubai on Friday.


Both the teams have put up exuberant performances throughout the tournament and clinched some thrillers in nail-biting finishes.


Both Lanka and Pakistan are brimming with confidence after notching up three wins each in a row. Both the teams started their campaign in a similar fashion.


They lost their opening matches and bounced back with convincing victories to put their campaign back on the track.  An India-Pakistan final was expected but Lanka spoiled the whole equation with a thumping victory over the defending champions.


Both Lanka and Pakistan are likely to field a second-string team to misguide each other and reserve the best for the final. Pakistan and Lanka seem to have championed the art of winning the battles of nerves. Pakistan defeated arch-rivals India in a nail-biting finish as they scored 27 runs in the last two overs to inch closer to the final berth.


All their plans are working perfectly. Every decision that Babar takes turns out to be the right one for Pakistan. All the boxes seem to be ticked for Pakistan and their preparation for the World Cup looks on the right track.


Despite their frontline players being injured, it does not seem to have any bearing on their performance, which shows their bench strength and the kind of quality players that they have at their disposal. All their players are stepping up one by one in each match to steer them to the victories.


Mohammad Nawaz was promoted in the batting against India, he played his role and executed the plan of the captain before Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah gave it a finishing touch with sublime performances. No doubt their chase was facilitated by Arshdeep Singh, who dropped a sitter of Asif Ali, when he was batting on one. Ali went on to score an 8-ball 16 to complete the job for Pakistan.


Against Afghanistan, Shadab Khan played a sheet-anchor role, he held the innings together before young Naseem Shah hit two successive sixes to steer them into the final. Pakistan needed 11 off the last over with just one wicket in hand when Naseem showed the mettle the champions are made of as he unleashed two blows on Fazalhaq Farooqi, who otherwise had dominated the whole match.


Mohammad Rizwan is in the form of his life. He has already scored two fifties after a score of 43 against India in the first match. Fakhar Zaman also scored a fifty and just needs to convert his starts into big scores.


Pakistan’s middle-order is very strong with Iftikhar Ahmed, Fakhar, Shadab Khan and Khushdil. Each of them has been contributing to team’s success.


In batting, their only concern is the form of Babar, who has scored 10,9, 14 and 0 in his last four innings. But the best part is that even without Babar making any contribution, Pakistan have been winning.


In the absence of frontline bowlers like Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shahnawaz Dahani and Mohd Wasim Junior, players like Naseem, Mohd Hasnain and Haris Rauf have shouldered the responsibility well.


On the other hand, Lanka will also look to get the feel of the final in match, which is a dead rubber but a prelude to the title showdown.


Lanka have a very strong opening pair of Pathum Nissanka and Kusal Mendis. They have been giving Lanka blazing starts and setting the tone for a successful chase. Lanka have chased down three big totals in a row and claimed a berth in the final.


Charith Asalanka, Danushka Gunathilaka, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dasun Shanaka make a very formidable middle-order. After a good start, Aslanak and Gunathilaka can take the game deep before Rajapaksa and Shanaka hold their nerves and take Lanka over the line.


Rajapaksa and Shanak added 64 runs against India after Lanka had lost four wickets to ensure a victory. Rajapaksa, at number five, has emerged as one of the best finishers of the game. He had steered Lanka to safety against Afghanistan also.


Lanka’s pace spearhead Dilshan Madhushanaka is leading their charge in the bowling along with Maheesh Theekshana. They take one-two early wickets and push the opposition on the backfoot from the beginning while spinners choke flow of the runs to mount the pressure, which prompts the batsmen to take risk and throw away their wickets.


Though a dear rubber, but it promises to be a very interesting contest as both the teams will test their bench strength and prepare for intriguing final, which will be played two days later.


 

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