DHAKA - Left-handed opener Lahiru Thirimanne hit a magnificent century as Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by five wickets to win their first Asia Cup title after 2008.
Sri Lanka chased down the 261-run victory target with 22 balls to spare in the final at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur on Saturday. Thirimanne hit his third ODI century before he was clean bowled by Saeed Ajmal with Sri Lanka needing less than 15 runs for victory. Thirimanne's 101-run knock came off 108 balls and was studded with 13 fours.
Sri Lanka lost their fourth wicket when Junaid Khan had Ashan Priyanjan (13) caught behind by Umar Akmal. Mohammad Talha had Mahela Jayawardene caught by Sharjeel Khan in the covers with Sri Lanka needing less than 50 runs for victory. Jayawardene hit a six and nine fours in his 93-ball 75 and added 156 runs with Lahiru Thirimanne for the third wicket. Thirimanne and Mahela Jayawardene brought up their 150-run stand off 154 balls. Jayawardene reached his first half-century in 13 innings off 76 deliveries while Thirimanne reached his seventh ODI fifty off 52 balls. Such was the strokemaking of Thirimanne and Jayawardene that they reached their partnership milestones with effortless ease. Their 100-run stand came off 103 balls and their 50-run stand came off 58 balls. The partnership came after Saeed Ajmal dismissed Kusal Perera and Kumar Sangakkara off his first two deliveries to rattle Sri Lanka. Perera strangely charged out of the crease on the very first delivery by Ajmal but missed it completely for Umar Akmal to complete the stumping.
Perera slammed a six and six fours in his 37-ball 42 before falling to Ajmal. Ajmal then trapped Sangakkara plumb in front of the wicket for a first-ball duck and changed the complexion of the game by reducing Sri Lanka to 56/2. Ajmal's double strike came after Perera and Lahiru Thirimanne brought up the Sri Lankan fifty in 9.4 overs. The fine start of the Sri Lankan run chase came after good show by Fawad Alam (114*) and Umar Akmal (59) negated Lasith Malinga's fiery spell (5/56) to help Pakistan set a 261-run target. Sri Lanka bowled really well at the start but lost their way towards the end.
Malinga took his seventh five-wicket haul in ODIs but it may still not be enough for Sri Lanka as they have to chase a good total against a very good Pakistan bowling attack. Pakistan made a superb comeback after being reduced to 18/3 and played very well to post a solid total on board. Alam and captain Misbah-ul-Haq led the way for Pakistan with a 122-run stand with both of them scoring fifties.
Misbah missed out on his hundred yet again but Alam went on to score his maiden ODI hundred. Akmal in the end overs played a breezy knock of 59 to ensure they finished on a high as Pakistan scored 101 runs in the last ten overs.
Alam slammed his maiden one-day international hundred in 126 balls with 8 boundaries and 3 scintillating sixes to his credit and also put up a quick-fire 115-run stand with Akmal to propel Pakistan to a respectable total. Akmal also hit 7 smashing boundaries to frustrate the Sri Lankan bowlers after Pakistan were in a spot of bother early. Malinga rattled the Pakistani innings early on as he struck in successive overs to dismiss Sharjeel Khan and Ahmed Shehzad cheaply after skipper Misbah won the toss and decided to bat first.
Soon after, Malinga dismissed M Hafeez to leave the defending champions stuttering at 18/3 in 4.3 overs. Misbah (65) and Fawad then staged a spirited fightback by putting up an impressive 122-run stand for the 4th wicket; however, the party was short-lived when Malinga dismissed the Pakistan captain. Misbah came to the rescue and scored his 37th ODI fifty to give Pakistan some hope of achieving competitive total in the summit clash. He smashed three fours and two sixes in his innings.
Sharjeel Khan c T Perera b Malinga 8
Ahmed Shehzad c Sangakkara b Malinga 5
M Hafeez c Sangakkara b Malinga 3
Misbahul Haq c K Perera b Malinga 65
Fawad Alam not out 114
Umar Akmal c Priyanjan b Malinga 59
Shahid Afridi not out 0
EXTRAS: (lb 1, w 5) 6
TOTAL: (5 wickets; 50 overs) 260
FOW: 1-8, 2-17, 3-18, 4-140, 5-255
BOWLING: L Malinga 10-0-56-5, S Lakmal 10-2-41-0, S Senanayake 9-0-54-0, T Perera 10-1-66-0, A Mathews 7-1-23-0, C de Silva 4-0-19-0
K Perera st Akmal b Ajmal 42
L Thirimanne b Ajmal 101
K Sangakkara lbw b Ajmal 0
M Jayawardene c Sharjeel b Talha 75
S Priyanjan c Akmal b Junaid 13
A Mathews not out 16
C de Silva not out 6
EXTRAS: (b 1, lb 1, w 5, nb 1) 8
TOTAL: (5 wickets; 46.2 overs) 261
BOWLING: M Hafeez 9-0-42-0, Umar Gul 6-0-44-0, Junaid Khan 9-0-56-1, Saeed Ajmal 10-2-26-3, M Talha 6.2-0-56-1, Shahid Afridi 6-0-35-0.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: L Malinga (SL)
UMPIRES: N Llong (Eng), B Oxenford (Aus)
TV UMPIRE: CK Nandan (India)
MATCH REFEREE: JJ Crowe (NZ)