The recently concluded Asia Cup tournament was one that will be remembered for a long time. Scripting the underdog story, against all the odds it was Sri Lanka who won their sixth Asia Cup title, and that too in quite some style, they defeated Pakistan by 23-runs in the finals at the Dubai International Stadium.
The tournament saw a display of exceptional cricket and dedication on the pitch which resulted in moments that were highlighted throughout the tournament. There was emotion, drama, comeback, and many stories all of which made the Asia Cup a more cherished prospect. Looking back at the Asia Cup here are some of the major highlights that made the tournament worthwhile and a spectacle to watch for the fans.
1. Sri Lanka’s run-chase against Bangladesh
Talking about drama till the end, the group stage game between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh was indeed one of the best games played in the tournament. Both the teams were involved in off-field banter on who had a better bowling attack but it was Sri Lanka’s batting might that had the last laugh against the high-flying Bangladesh players.
Bangladesh put out a target of 183 runs for the Lankans to chase. The Lions were struggling on 77/4 but the captain Dasun Shanka and Kusal Mendia forged a 54-run partnership. With Mendis’s departure, the final two over became interesting with Bangladesh having an upper hand but Asitha Fernando had other ideas as he hit crucial boundaries thus snatching the win from Bangladesh.
2. Pakistan’s comeback against India
India emerged victorious against rivals Pakistan in the group stage fixture of the Asia Cup. This was another thrilling affair that went to the last over. Hardik Pandya was the hero of the night for his contributions with both the bat and the ball. However, the scores were not settled between the two sides as they met again in the Super 4 stage.
Now, this time it was Pakistan who got their payback as they got their comeback win against India, thus hampering their chances to make it into the finals. Mohammed Rizwan and Mohammad Nawaz displayed their batting might against the Indian bowlers who were left stunned by the batting. Chasing the target of 182 runs, Indian bowlers failed to keep the Pakistan batter quiet as they were rampant in their approach. It all came down to the last over where Arshdeep Singh had to defend 7 runs but his efforts were in vain as Iftikhar Ahmed and Khusdil Shah saw their team cross the finish line, Pakistan won the game by 5 wickets with 1 ball left to play.
3. Naseem Shah’s 2 sixes against Afghanistan
Naseem Shah was one of the new faces on the Pakistan team for the Asia Cup and boy he had a tournament to remember. His two wickets against India in the group stage encounter were applauded despite struggling with cramps but he shined the brightest against Afghanistan where he pulled off a heist for his team.
Pakistan were chasing the target of 130 runs set by the Afghanistan team but with the regular fall of wickets and big-name players failing to make their mark, their team was in big trouble. In the 17th over Pakistan lost Mohammad Nawaz as their 6th wicket, Khushdil Shah who came in next departed for just 1 run, and the alarm bells were ringing for Pakistan. Naseem Shah then entered the pitch, 11 runs were needed off 6 balls in the last over and what happened next simply blew everybody’s mind. Naseem Shah hit the first ball for six, and with the repeat of that, he again hit a maximum thus winning a thrilling match for his side.
4. Virat Kohli’s 71st century
India were down and out of the Asia Cup after losing their two Super games back to back. Although they had to round off their campaign with the final game against Afghanistan. India was without Rohit Sharma and therefore Virat Kohli opened the batting alongside KL Rahul as India was invited to bat first after losing the toss. After a disappointing Asia Cup campaign, not a lot was expected of this fixture but it turned out to be the game that brought Virat Kohli back to life.
It was nearly three years that Virat had hit a century, and his 71st came in the Asia Cup. From the get-go Kohli smashed the batters for boundaries, hitting masterful strokes across the ground. Kohli not only stopped at his century but went on to hit a 122* run knock in just 61 deliveries. A total of 12 boundaries and 6 maximums were dispatched by the man of the hours. With Virat’s bat singing in Asia keep, India will be assured and confident going into the T20 World Cup in Australia.
5. Sri Lanka’s wins the Asia Cup title amid the economic crisis in their country
It is often said the harder the battle the sweeter the victory and this does sound well for the Sri Lankan team who against all odds were crowned the Asia Cup Champions. Dusan Shanaka and his team were on a mission that was greater than winning the game of cricket, the mission was the people of Sri Lanka deserved better, the people of Sri Lanka can fight, and that they needed hope in the darkest of hours.
A country that is gripped by an economic crisis and political turmoil had little hope for a bright future ahead. It was the 11 heroes that displayed the very true essence of the Sri Lankan country displaying courage, resilience, and character. Upon their return to the island country, the entire Sri Lankan cricket team had a massive open-bus tour where they interacted with the fans celebrating the title win.