Asia Cup final: Pakistan's coach backs 'match-winners' to lift title in Dubai

Sri Lanka defeated Babar Azam's team in last Super 4 match on Friday ahead of Sunday's showdown

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Saqlain Mushtaq, the Pakistan coach, says he is confident his team of “game changers and match-winners” will bounce back to overcome Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup final.

Sri Lanka were comfortable victors over their more celebrated opponents when the sides met on Friday night in a dress rehearsal for Sunday's main event.

After bundling out Pakistan for just 121 at the Dubai International Stadium, they chased the target in just 17 overs with only five wickets down.

Despite the comprehensive margin of defeat, Pakistan could point to some mitigating factors.

Asia Cup 2022

What
Asia Cup final: Sri Lanka v Pakistan

When
Sunday, September 11, from 6pm

Where
Dubai International Stadium

How to watch
Catch the live action on Starzplay across Mena region.

Neither Naseem Shah nor Shadab Khan, who have been two of their outstanding players in the competition so far, featured in the last Super 4 match.

And Mushtaq is sure Pakistan will provide a different challenge when the sides go again at the same venue on Sunday evening.

“I have full faith in all of them,” Saqlain, the former Pakistan off-spinner, said.

“They are game-changers and match-winners. The place these players come from they have played lots of cricket and worked hard to get here.

“Every player has the passion and drive to turn the tables and win matches. I have full confidence in the team.”

Babar Azam top-scored for Pakistan on Friday with 30, but he remains some way short of his fluent best.

Pakistan’s captain has made 63 runs in five innings at this Asia Cup, but Mushtaq argues he is out of luck rather than out of form.

“If someone looks at cricket and batting closely they will say Babar has just been unlucky, even though he is playing well,” Saqlain said.

“He is a class batter. Any batter with an eye for detail will say that Babar is not out of form, he is just going through an unlucky phase.”

If Pakistan are to turn the tables on their opponents in the final, they will need to find a way to combat Sri Lanka’s spinners better than they managed on Friday.

In the 12 overs they sent down, Wanindu Hasaranga, Dhananjaya de Silva and Maheesh Theekshana took six for 60 between them.

“We have a young team,” said Hasaranga, who took 3-21 with his leg spin.

“I always try to bowl dot balls and bowl wicket to wicket. That is why I have had success, and I think [Maheesh Theekshana] has been doing the same.

“These wickets are flat, but if we can bowl good areas, I think we can enjoy [success].”

Whatever the result in the final, it feels as though this tournament has announced Sri Lanka’s re-emergence as a force in cricket.

Dasun Shanaka, the captain, pointed to the rise of the likes of 24-year-old batter Pathum Nissanka as a reason for cheer.

“He has been playing outstanding cricket,” Shanaka said of Nissanka, who anchored the run chase in the win over Pakistan with a half-century.

“In the role, what we expect from him he has been playing that, and it has been very important for the whole team.

“With him playing that role, the other batters like myself and Bhanuka [Rajapaksa] who are power hitters, we can play around him.

“That is what we expect from Pathum. He has a great career ahead of him. He is a very talented guy.”

Updated: September 10, 2022, 10:16 AM
Asia Cup 2022

What
Asia Cup final: Sri Lanka v Pakistan

When
Sunday, September 11, from 6pm

Where
Dubai International Stadium

How to watch
Catch the live action on Starzplay across Mena region.

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