Colombo, September 17 (ANI): Two cricketing giants from the sub-continent will lock horns on a blockbuster Sunday in the battle to crown Asia’s best.
The final of the ongoing Asia Cup between the hosts Sri Lanka and India promises a thrill-a-minute ride, with both teams recording impressive wins on the road to the final.
While the Lankans will go into the final as the defending champions, Team India, led by in-form Rohit Sharma, will be desperate to lift the trophy that they haven’t won since 2018.
Having secured qualification for the showpiece event, overcoming myriad challenges and close contests in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, the Lankans would be keen not to cede the mantle of Asia’s best to their sub-continental neighbours.
A win in the all-important final on Sunday will certainly make them a dark horse in the World Cup, where the matches will be played on familiar sub-continental surfaces.
Sri Lanka came close to handing India their first defeat of the Asia Cup 2023 in the Super Four stage but the visitors’ bowling attack came to the party to eke out a hard-fought win.
On a surface known to offer plenty of purchase for the spinners, the Lankan Lions will miss their bowling trump card — mystery spinner Maheesh Theekshana. The tweaker, who has been among the wickets in the tournament, was ruled out of the final after sustaining an injury in his right hamstring during their nerve-jangling Super Four clash against Pakistan.
In a tournament where Pakistan’s pace trio of Haris Rauf, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Nasim Shah has dominated the wicket-takers list, Theekshana made his mark by claiming 9 wickets in 5 matches at an economy of 5.15.
Barring a narrow defeat in an inconsequential Super Four clash against Bangladesh on Friday, India have been on song in the tournament. However, the visitors suffered a setback going into the final, with all-rounder Axar Patel ruled out because of a left quadriceps strain that he sustained during the Super Four clash with Bangladesh on Friday.
In his place, Washington Sundar was called in ahead of the final and will have an opportunity to put himself in contention for the World Cup squad, should he make the playing eleven on Sunday.
All-rounder Shardul, while going cold with the willow so far in the tournament, has been in good wicket-taking form as he ended up with figures of 3-65 against Bangladesh. Shakib Al Hasan, Anamul Haque and Tanzid Hasan were his victims on the evening.
But India could be tempted to play Sundar in place of Shardul in the final, as offers a similar set of skills with the bat while adding more variety with his left-handed batting style in a line-up that majorly comprises right-handers.
Ahead of the clash of the Asian giants, Sri Lanka skipper Dasun Shanaka declared that his team was ready for the final.
“Of course, we are ready [for the Asia Cup 2023 final]. See, it totally depends on the pitch. The pitches have been playing a part in this tournament. According to the pitch stats, we are picking a good side, especially bowling against India, we need to take more wickets upfront. That opens the game for us. That’s a key area in the game,” Shanaka said in a pree-match press conference on Saturday.
Shubman Gill, who struck a century albeit in a losing cause against Bangladesh, stressed the importance of lifting the Asia Cup trophy ahead of the World Cup.
“Winning the [Asia Cup] final is very important for us because we need to create a winning habit. Peaking at the right time and gaining momentum at the right time is important,” Gill said.