Undefeated Sri Lanka will face Pakistan in the Asia Cup final on March 8 at Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur.
Pakistan completed an excellent comeback over Bangladesh in the final group game, chasing 327 thanks to Shahid Afridi's brutal innings, with Ahmed Shehzad's ton setting up Umar Akmal to score the winning runs to mark a memorable turnaround.
Meanwhile, Sri Lanka secured their place in the final after bowling out Afghanistan to win by 129 runs, setting up a final with 2012 winners Pakistan.
The two sides met on the opening day of this year's competition, as Lahiru Thirimanne's ton put Sri Lanka on their way to a 12-run win.
|March 8||7.30 a.m. GMT, 2.30 a.m. ET||Sri Lanka vs. Pakistan (2014 Asia Cup final)||Star Life Ok (Sky Channel 783, UK)|
Can Sri Lanka maintain winning momentum?
Sri Lanka finished bottom of the table in the 2012 Asia Cup and failed to pick up a tournament win.
However, it's a different story this time around as the side have maintained an unbeaten run to reach the final.
A change in fortune for the four-time winners, per Information Cricket, has seen the side overcome all opponents this time around.
Kumar Sangakkara has been talismanic with the bat for Sri Lanka in this year's contest, leading the batting totals with a whopping 248 runs across the four matches, per ESPN Cricinfo.
Sangakkara's power with the bat highlights his side's dominance throughout, with 26 fours and two sixes to eclipse his fellow batsmen across all five squads.
The final could also play the perfect backdrop to a milestone victory for Sangakkara, as tweeted by Cricket Record:
Kumar Sangakkara now involves in 199 wins in ODIs - If SL beat Pakistan in #AsiaCup final on Saturday, that would be Sanga' 200th win !!— Cricket Record (@cricinfo_record) March 6, 2014
But if Sri Lanka are to benefit from their fine run of form, they'll have to overcome history as dictated by Pakistan's dominance between the two sides in one-day internationals, per ESPN Cricinfo.
They will also have to hope that their 36-year-old talisman is on top form in the final and focused on maintaining his place at the top of the run charts, as the side looks to record their fifth Asia Cup title.
Afridi the key to Pakistan success while battling critics
After criticism of his performances back home, Shadid Afridi hit back against his doubters as he helped his side reach the final.
However, Afridi's ability to pick up important runs when it really matters is what separates him from the rest, as a three-in-one cricketer who excels with bat, ball and also in the field.
Speaking of his career to reporters, Afridi defended his place within the Pakistan team:
I will sideline myself, the moment I start thinking that I'm becoming a burden on my team. I will not let anyone an opportunity to talk. As long as I'm fit and give my life to cricket, I'll continue playing the sport. I want to give something to my country with my performance.
There is no such thing that you will score runs with the bat every day. I've given my focus to bowling as well. I want to get myself ready in such a way that I deliver to the team, be it in batting or bowling.
Afridi continued, speaking of his ability to get himself ready for a match, while not feeling the need for a coach:
As I've said earlier also, having played at this level for so many years, I don't need a coach. Mein apna coach behter hoon (I am better off with coaching myself). I know what to do and what not to do. It's about having the right people to back you and support you.
Renowned Pakistan spin-bowler Abdul Qadir has also jumped to the defence of Afridi and stated to PTI Bhasha (via NDTV Sports) his belief that he should be the current captain:
I have always said that Afridi is a three-in-one player who can bat, bowl and field well. He has faced unnecessary criticism and I feel that being a senior player he deserves respect. He should be allowed to play till he enjoys his game.
I think he (Afridi) should be the captain of Pakistan team. As far as 2015 World Cup is concerned, I think that is far away and team should be selected on the basis of current form and fitness of players.
Picking up just 103 runs in four matches, with three wickets also to his name, it's largely been up to Shehzad (223 runs) and Umar Akmal (194 runs) to score the big totals for Pakistan.
Who will win the 2014 Asia Cup?
However, Afridi's ability to step up when it counts was on show against Bangladesh as he hit a 25-ball 59 to set his side on their way to the final.
He plays with a style that many of Pakistan's younger stars would be wise to learn from.
Pakistan can overcome their opponents in the final and with 80 wins against Sri Lanka in ODIs to date, they'll take plenty of confidence away from their previous victories against Angelo Mathews' men.
It's imperative that both sides finish the tournament with a win, too, with the ICC World Twenty20 starting on March 16.
Both Sri Lanka and Pakistan will be looking to go into the tournament with winning momentum and with their future stars picking up as much knowledge as they can from Sangakkara and Afridi.