It is currently 7 minutes past one in the night in Sri Lanka, yet the festivities show no sign of winding down; they are destined to continue well into the early morning hours. What unfolded was a breathtaking conclusion in this virtual semi-final match, ultimately propelling Sri Lanka into yet another Asia Cup final. The protagonist of this dramatic spectacle was none other than Charith Asalanka, who, with an air of nonchalance, played a flick shot behind square that sent the entire stadium into a state of euphoria.
Pakistan’s journey in this encounter began on an uncertain note, marked by moments of instability. However, the turning point came when Shadab Khan executed a brilliant run-out, infusing newfound energy into the Pakistani squad. The opening pair for Pakistan departed relatively early in their innings, but Sri Lanka seized control during the middle overs, thanks to the partnership of Sadeera Samarawickrama and Kusal Mendis. This dynamic duo amassed an impressive tally of 100 runs for the third wicket, leaving Pakistan seemingly bereft of strategies and ideas.
In an attempt to change the game’s trajectory, Iftikhar Ahmed took a calculated risk, resulting in the disruption of the partnership. He subsequently dismissed Kusal Mendis and Dasun Shanaka, offering a glimmer of hope for Pakistan. The match appeared to be slipping away from Pakistan’s grasp, but they mounted a remarkable comeback towards the end, largely owing to Shaheen Afridi’s stellar penultimate over. Afridi’s exceptional performance in that over saw him claim two crucial wickets while conceding a mere four runs.
As the final over beckoned, the responsibility fell upon the shoulders of the debutant, Zaman Khan. However, destiny had ordained that this day would belong to Charith Asalanka, who emerged as the hero of the hour. Reflecting on the match, Pakistan might well lament missed opportunities and moments of tepid captaincy and bowling during the middle phase.
Kushal Medis won player for the match.