DHAKA: With back-to-back heroic performance with the bat in last matches by all-rounder Shahid Afridi has made him a cynosure before Pakistan clash with Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final at Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium, Mirpur on Saturday.
Sri Lanka have been unbeaten throughout the tournament, while Pakistan lost one game in the tournament against the same rival whom it going to encounter in the decider.
Pakistan clinched a thriller in both its last matches against Bangladesh and India when Afridi turned the tables in its team’s favour and remained a driving force in storming Pakistan to the final. Afridi scored unbeaten 18-ball 34 against India, bagging marvelous victory to Pakistan. Similarly he played a crucial knock of 25-ball 59 against Bangladesh at a critical juncture, helping Pakistan to a 3-wicket win over the opponent.
Other Pakistan's batsmen, after an uncertain start to the tournament, have also found form. There's Mohammad Hafeez, who has scored half-centuries in his last two games, Ahmed Shehzad, who made a century against Bangladesh, and Fawad Alam, whose return to the side suddenly gave Pakistan someone who could hold their middle order together. It's almost a good thing for Pakistan, perversely, that Misbah, the man who usually does that job for them, has scored 0, 1 and 4 in the matches they have won.
When it comes to Sri Lanka, they haven’t been convincing as a batting unit. Kumar Sangakkara, Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne have scored runs, but the rest of the top six have been patchy.
The pitches in Mirpur have been a little unpredictable, with one side of the square tending to produce uneven bounce and another throwing up good batting conditions. Spinners have played a massive role regardless of which pitch is used, though, and the most important mini-contest in the match could be the one between the two slow-bowling attacks.
It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan and Sri Lanka have met each other 12 times in tournament finals, and each side has won six times.