Sri Lanka's Bhanuka Rajapaksa plays a shot during the Asia Cup Twenty20 international cricket final match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on 11 September, 2022AFP

Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s counter-attacking half-century and Wanindu Hasaranga’s brisk innings took Sri Lanka to 170-6 in 20 overs after a disastrous start in the final of Asia Cup 2022 against Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the UAE on Sunday.

Rajapaksa struck an unbeaten 71 off 45 balls and Hasaranga scored 36 off 21 balls to take Sri Lanka to a fighting total after going five down inside nine overs.

For Pakistan, pacer Haris Rauf was the pique of the bowlers with figures of 3-29 while Naseem Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan took one wicket each.

Sri Lanka's Bhanuka Rajapaksa celebrates his fifty

The pacers gave Pakistan a blazing start, reducing Sri Lanka to 36-3 inside six overs, after Babr Azam asked the Lankans to bat first.

Naseem Shah, who was rested in Pakistan’s final game in the Super four which was against Sri Lanka, went through the defences of Kusal Mendis in the third ball of the innings, sending the opener back to the dressing room for a golden duck.

Haris Rauf didn’t let Sri Lanka recover from the early setback by taking the wickets of Pathum Nissanka (eight off 11 balls) and Danushka Gunathilaka (one off four balls) to put Pakistan on top after the powerplay.

While wickets kept falling at one end in the powerplay, Dhananjaya de Silva kept batting with a positive intent at the other end, hitting four boundaries to reach 28 off 20 balls.

The Pakistan skipper then handed the ball to part-time spinner Iftikhar Ahmed, who struck straight away by taking a sharp return catch from Dhananjaya’s bat to reduce Sri Lanka to 53-4 after 7.4 overs.

Skipper Dasun Shanaka (two off three balls) also failed to deliver in the final, losing his stumps to leg-spinner Shadab Khan in the very next over.

Sri Lanka had lost half their side for just 58 runs and were in desperate need for a partnership. Rajapaksa and Hasaranga stood up for their side, initiating a counterattack that brought Sri Lanka back in the match.

Sri Lanka's captain Dasun Shanaka (R) is bowled out off Pakistan's Shadab Khan

The duo added 58 runs off 36 balls for the sixth wicket. Hasaranga was the aggressor of the two, smashing five fours and one six.

Hasaranga’s departed when his attempt to complete a hat-trick of boundaries against Haris backfired and he edged the ball to wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan.

But Rajapaksa remained undeterred and completed his half-century in the 18th over.

Rajapaksa was also aided by Pakistan fielders, getting dropped in the 17th and 18th over at the boundary, the second of which ended up being a six.

Rajapaksa struck two sixes off Naseem to close out the innings as Sri Lanka ended the first innings as the happier of the two sides.