Ajantha Mendis magic, India’s implosion and the five best Asia Cup finals

Ahead of the 2016 Asia Cup final between Bangladesh and India, Paul Radley picks the five best finals from previous editions of the tournament.

Ajantha Mendis announced his arrival at the 2008 Asia Cup where he helped Sri Lanka to the title. Matt Dunham / AP Photo
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DHAKA // Such is the volume of trucks, cars, rickshaws, tuk-tuks, bicycles and various other modes of transport on Dhaka’s roads, the Bangladeshi capital is used to gridlock.

One central district in particular will be at a total standstill on Sunday night when the nation’s cricketers try to win a first Asia Cup title, as they face India at the National Stadium in Mirpur.

This is the first time the tournament has been played in the 20-over format. These are five of the best Asia Cup finals played in the old, 50-over style.

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2008 — Sri Lanka beat India by 100 runs, Karachi

This confirmed the arrival of Ajantha Mendis. The mystery spinner had been playing second tier cricket for the Army before becoming an international sensation. Against India’s bedazzled batsmen, he took six for 13 in the final.

All of which meant the UAE did not have to feel quite so bad about themselves. They had been soundly beaten by the Sri Lankans in the first round, with Mendis taking five for 22.

2012 — Pakistan beat Bangladesh by two runs, Dhaka

Dhaka residents still talk about this defeat in mournful terms. Some even describe it as a national tragedy. It would have been a first Asia Cup crown, but Pakistan snatched it from them at the very last.

The hosts needed four off the final ball of the tournament to win it. Aizaz Cheema kept Shahadat Hossain to just one leg bye, as the Pakistanis won through.

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2004 — Sri Lanka beat India by 35 runs, Colombo

Remember when India used to get stage fright in finals? This was that time. Set 229 to win, only Sachin Tendulkar fired as India were done in by a battery of spinners who were not Muttiah Muralitharan. Little-heralded Upul Chandana was the star.

“I don’t know what it is, but we’re not doing something right,” Sourav Ganguly, India’s captain, said. “We cannot lose so many finals.”

1995 — India beat Sri Lanka by eight wickets, Sharjah

The last time the tournament was staged in Sharjah, where the original tournament had taken place in 1984. Maybe it should be brought back to the UAE again, if only for a change of scenery, given each of the past three have been staged in Bangladesh.

Chasing 233 to win against the Sri Lankans, India cruised home with eight wickets and 6.1 overs to spare. Mohammed Azharuddin, the captain, made 90 not out.

2014 — Sri Lanka beat Pakistan by five wickets, Dhaka

Fawad Alam did not deserve to be on the losing side, as he made 114 not out. Neither did Umar Akmal, who walloped an undefeated 59 in 42 balls. Nor did Saeed Ajmal, as he took three for 26 in 10 overs.

Yet they all were, as the Sri Lankans took a fifth title to equal India’s Asia Cup record. Lasith Malinga took five wickets, and Lahiru Thirimmane’s century anchored the chase.

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