Malinga five-for, Thirimanne ton guide team to their first major win since the Asia Cup in 2008.
In the end, Sri Lanka did it in style, making the contest fairly lop-sided and winning the final against Pakistan by five wickets with 22 balls to spare. They’ve been easily the best team of the tournament and an unbeaten streak of five matches gave them the Asia Cup for the fifth time.
The foundation was laid by Lasith Malinga with an initial burst of three wickets that dented Pakistan’s hopes of getting off to a flying start batting first. Malinga returned to remove Misbah-ul-Haq in the batting power-plays and accounted for Umar Akmal at the death to return with a five-for and the Man of the Match award. Lahiru Thirimanne, with a hundred, and Mahela Jayawardene, with a fifty, ensured that the fast bowler’s efforts were not wasted.
Thirimanne is widely regarded as the finest young batting talent in Sri Lanka. On Saturday he gave a glimpse of his class before Saeed Ajmal breached his defence later on. By then the Sri Lankan opener had 101 runs (108 balls, 13X4) against his name and the match was in Sri Lanka’s pocket. It was his third century in 62 ODIs.
“Thirimanne has to step into the big shoes when the time will come. Today he did his job very well,” Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews said.
The youngster finished the tournament with 279 runs from five matches. His opening partner Kusal Perera was agricultural but effective, taking on Umar Gul upfront and putting Pakistan under pressure at the start of the chase. Sri Lanka raced to 56 in 10 overs before the first wicket fell.
Ajmal was brought on inside the powerplay overs as the match was slipping out of Pakistan’s grip. And the off-spinner found his magic in his second over, striking twice in two balls. Perera was fooled by the one that held back a little as the batter charged down the wicket. Akmal had an easy stumping.
Kumar Sangakkara was sent packing for a golden duck with a doosra that caught him plumb in front. Out of form Mahela Jayawardene came in with Ajmal on a hat-trick and was beaten by another doosra, but the ball hit him above knee roll and he survived.
Jayawardene, who has struggled through this tournament, returned to form at the perfect time for Sri Lanka. The 36-year-old assembled all his experience to counter Ajmal’s threat and though he struggled initially, getting beaten a few times he went on to find his touch later. Thirimanne protected him well during that period and allowed his senior partner to settle to his own pace. Thirteen balls into his innings, Jayawardene found his touch. A sublime late continued…