Sri Lanka won its sixth Asia Cup title after beating Pakistan by 23 runs at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in the UAE on Sunday.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa’s counter-attacking unbeaten 71 off 45 balls and Wanindu Hasaranga’s brisk 36 off 21 balls took Sri Lanka to 170-6 after losing five wickets 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.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam’s lean patch continued as he departed for five off six deliveries off Pramod. In the very next delivery, Fakhar Zaman was clean bowled for a golden duck, which reduced Pakistan to 22-2 after 3.3 overs.

Rizwan and Iftikhar then formed a 71-run partnership for the third wicket. But the duo took 59 balls to get those runs.

Pakistan paid dearly for their slow batting as Sri Lankan bowlers started taking wickets in regular succession from the 14th over and slowly took the match away from Pakistan.

Iftikhar was the third wicket for Madushan in the match, when his attempt to hit a six backfired and the ball landed straight into the hands of substitute fielder KNA Bandara.

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Mohammad Nawaz’s (six off nine balls) brief stay at the middle ended in the 16th over courtesy of Chamika Karunaratne.

Sri Lankan leg-spinner then permanently turned the momentum of the match by dismissing Rizwan, Asif Ali (0 off one ball) and Khushdil Shah (two off four balls) in the same over to reduce Pakistan to 112-7 after 16.5 overs.

Pakistan managed to score 35 runs in the remaining 19 balls, falling well short of their target.

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

Naseem Shah went through the defenses 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, 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.

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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.

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.

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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

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