In the final game that just ended, Sri Lanka beat Pakistan to win the Asia Cup trophy. Why was this a surprise? Because Sri Lanka was fielding a relatively young and inexperienced team, especially when it came to bowling, and they got off to a bad start when in the preliminary round they were trounced in the first game by Afghanistan. Afghanistan has come a long away in the short time it has been playing international cricket but it still had to be considered the weaker team. If Sri Lanka lost its second game against Bangladesh, it would have been eliminated from the tournament but they managed to win and then proceeded to win every single subsequent game, beating the more highly favored Indian and Pakistan teams along the way (the latter twice) as well as a repeat match against Afghanistan. This was definitely a team where the whole was more than the sum of its parts, punching above its weight, with different players stepping up at crucial moments.
Sri Lanka was fortunate to win the toss in its winning spree leading up to the final. Winning the toss and asking the opponents to bat first tends to be a good strategy in these 20-over games because it gives the team batting second a definite target to chase. In Dubai especially where the tournament was played, the team that bats second has a very high percentage of wins.
Their luck with the toss ran out in the final when Pakistan won the toss and Sri Lanka was asked to bat first and they got off to a terrible start, with the score at one stage just 58 for 5. But their lower order batters salvaged the situation and they ended up with a respectable total of 170 runs for the loss of six wickets in their 20 overs. Pakistan got off to a fairly slow start in their chase and then a middle order collapse put paid to their chances and they were all out for just 147.
The big disappointment has to be India’s performance. They always field a strong team and pre-tournament predictions were for an India-Pakistan final, a match-up that always generates great passions among the fans in these two cricket-mad countries that are long-standing rivals both politically and sportingly. But India had some lapses in the tournament and could not make the final. Indian fans take their team’s losses badly and there are bound to be demands for heads to roll.
This short format of the game is my least favorite though it is popular with the fans since it requires high scoring. To me much of the subtlety that is the appeal of the game gets lost in the quest for big hits. But this win by Sri Lanka will be a boost for the morale of the country where the political situation is still terrible and the people are suffering greatly, as I will discuss in a separate post.