Pakistan vs. Sri Lanka: Key Players to Watch in Saturday's Asia Cup Final

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistMarch 8, 2014

Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, celebrates taking the wicket of Pakistan’s Bilawal Bhatti during the opening match of the Asia Cup one-day international cricket tournament between them in Fatullah, near Dhaka, Bangladesh, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. Sri Lanka won by 12 runs. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

The 2014 Asia Cup will be contested this Saturday between titleholders Pakistan and Sri Lanka, fresh from their closely fought victory over Bangladesh on Thursday.

Two of the continent's cricket titans promise to make for an all-star affair, but there are a host of lights that have the potential to shine brighter than the rest.

Ahead of the tournament's climax, we've taken a look at some of those players who are likely to have a telling impact on the fixture, with both Pakistani and Sri Lankan assets making the cut.


Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Having been rested for this weekend's fixture against Bangladesh, Lasith Malinga should be fresh for his return in the crunch climax against Pakistan this weekend.

The pacer wasn't needed for that fixture considering his side's place in the final was already secure, but if there were an occasion where the flair needs to be turned on, this would be it.

OptaJim show precisely just what an influential figure the bowler has been on the international scene:

As ESPN Cricinfo show, Malinga was crucial in the opening-round win over Pakistan back on Feb. 25, taking five wickets in total, equal to the sum of what his teammates were able to take.

If Sri Lanka are to maintain a winning streak over their opponents, that proficiency in the bowling game will be needed once more by one of their most reliable talismans.


Umar Akmal, Pakistan

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Umar Akmal's time at the Asia Cup has been slightly mired by an altercation the 23-year-old had with the traffic police on Feb. 1.

However, with reporting that any possible charges have been cleared thanks to a written apology from Akmal's father, the wicket keeper can now look to concentrate completely on his own game.

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Even though his side lost to Sri Lanka in their previous meeting, Akmal held a good account of his batting ability last month, scoring 74, more than a quarter of his team's total points, per ESPN Cricinfo.

The youngster hasn't quite had the same influence with the bat in his last two Asia Cup matches, but should he and his teammates manage to rally their better striking, Sri Lanka will have a stiff test on their hands.


Angelo Matthews, Sri Lanka

Theo Karanikos/Associated Press

Heading into a match of this magnitude, the captains will always be among those figure with the most pressure resting on their shoulders, and this Saturday is no different for Sri Lanka's Angelo Matthews.

In the midweek triumph over Bangladesh, the leader contributed a Man of the Match performance, hitting 74 of his team's 208 runs, per ESPN Cricinfo.

Aside from that batting presence, Sri Lanka will need to be able to look to Matthews for guidance should things not go to plan from the beginning, with a Pakistan win most certainly on the cards should morale fail to be boosted.