Sri Lankan opening batsman Lahiru Thirimanne hit a century to lead Sri Lanka past defending champions Pakistan by five wickets to regain the Asia Cup title in Dhaka, Bangladesh at the historic Shere Bangla Stadium. The left-handed Thirimanne notched 101 for his third one-day hundred to anchor Sri Lankaâ€™s successful chase of a 261-run target in 46.2 overs for Sri Lankaâ€™s fifth Asia Cup title.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq blamed the defeat on losing early wickets. â€œI think losing the first three wickets quickly put us under pressure and although we managed to reach 260, it was some 20-30 short,â€ said Misbah. Poor fielding also hurt Pakistan in the final with Akmal, Sharjeel Khan and Hafeez dropping catches. â€œIt doesnâ€™t mean that coaches arenâ€™t working or the boys are not doing hard work in the field,â€ Misbah said. â€œWe try our best but unfortunately in important matches we missed a few chances.â€
However, despite the defeat, hope rides high in Islamabad heading into the upcoming Twenty-20 World Cup. Misbah-ul-Haq cited his playersâ€™ performance in the Asia Cup as reason for optimism heading into the World Twenty20. Pakistan pulled off impressive run chases against India and Bangladesh prior to losing the final to Sri Lanka.
Misbah said the run-scoring by the likes of Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi on Bangladesh wickets indicated the team can perform well when that country hosts the World Twenty20 beginning on March 16th. â€œThereâ€™s a disappointment that we couldnâ€™t win the final, but the morale of the team is very good,â€ Misbah told the press. â€œWe have a very good chance (in World Twenty20) … especially because the batsmen are in good form.â€
Pakistan was placed in a daunting group for the World Twenty20, a group that includes India, Australia, defending champion West Indies and a qualifier. Dare we call it the Group of Death? Nonetheless, Pakistan remains one of the most successful teams in the burgeoning short format of the game, having qualified for the very first World Twenty20 final in 2007. Pakistan went on to win the event two years later in England in 2009.