DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Sri Lanka choked Pakistan through its spinners then opening batter Pathum Nissanka hit an unbeaten half-century to set up a five-wicket win in the Asia Cup on Friday.
Both teams had already qualified for the final on Sunday and were completing the Super 4 stage. Sri Lanka finished it unbeaten and will go into the final as slight favourite.
Sri Lanka followed its template of successfully chasing in the tournament for the fourth successive time.
Pakistan was shot out for 121 in 19.1 overs and while the Sri Lanka top order crumbled against Pakistan’s pace to 29-3 inside the batting powerplay, Nissanka’s gritty unbeaten 55 off 48 balls carried them to 124-5 with three overs to spare.
Babar Azam, who struggled with only 33 runs in the previous four games, top-scored with a scratchy 30 off 29 balls. Pakistan reached 49-1 after six overs but lost its last nine wickets for 58 runs.
“Our batting wasn’t up to the mark after the powerplay and we couldn’t build on from there,” Babar said. “We have made mistakes and will have a discussion before the final.”
Legspinner Wanindu Hasaranga ignited the collapse by clean bowling Babar, Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali to finish with 3-21.
Offspinner Maheesh Theekshana (2-21) and Dhananjanya de Silva (1-18) also tied down the batters through their disciplined bowling as Pakistan lost wickets at regular intervals.
“I am really happy because the last few games I went for some runs,” Hasaranga said. “I tried bowling dot balls in the first few overs, that’s why the three wickets came.”
Debutant fast bowler Pramod Madushan, one of the two changes Sri Lanka made in the last Super 4 game, got his first wicket off the third ball when Mohammad Rizwan tried to chase a wide delivery but top-edged it to wicketkeeper Kusal Mendis.
Fakhar Zaman, who scored only one half-century in the Asia Cup, and Babar struggled to raise the scoring rate before Zaman flashed hard at Chamika Karunaratne straight to Hasaranga at point boundary.
Mohammad Nawaz (26) hit two late sixes before getting run out in the penultimate over, and Madushan returned and deceived Haris Rauf with a slower delivery to wrap up the innings.
Pakistan pacers Rauf (2-19) and Mohammad Hasnain (2-21) reduced Sri Lanka to 2-2 when they removed Kusal Mendis and Danuska Gunathilaka without scoring, while de Silva was beaten by extra pace from Rauf.
But legspinner Usman Qadir (1-34) and fast bowler Hasan Ali (0-25) couldn't stem the flow of runs in their first game of the tournament after Pakistan rested fast bowler Naseem Shah and Shadab Khan.
Nissanka added 51 runs with Bhanuka Rajapaksa, and Shanaka made 21 before perishing when Sri Lanka needing only nine more runs.
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