Sri Lanka remain unbeaten in the Asia Cup and will face Pakistan in the final on Saturday. It's hard to point to a favourite for the final since both teams have proven themselves prone to lapses in concentration and both sides possess match-winners who can steal the game at the last second.
Venue: Shere Bangla National Stadium, Mirpur
Date: Saturday, March 8
Start time: 8 a.m. GMT (2 p.m. local)
Live on: Star Life OK (Sky Channel 783, UK)
Weather: Accuweather predicts a warm day with highs of around 32 degrees Celsius. There will be some clouds about, but there is no rain predicted so expect a full day's play.
In their final group game on Thursday, Sri Lanka suffered a top-order collapse of epic proportions. Chasing 205 against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka were reduced to 75 for five in just over 23 overs. Angelo Mathews and Chaturanga de Silva rescued them in the end, but it was the kind of performance that would give any team a few jitters before a big final.
Pakistan do not have that problem. For them, the jitters are always just around the corner and although they have suffered them a number of times through this tournament, there's usually been somebody around to rescue them. Shahid Afridi has been the superhero in more than one instance, but Fawad Alam and Umar Akmal have also stepped into the role.
While some of the changes in Pakistan's approach have been attributed to the new coaching staff, Afridi has praised the new setup, all while saying he doesn't really need a coach. He was quoted by ESPNCricinfo as saying:
The support team that we have now are all knowledgeable and keep you positive. As I've said earlier also, having played at this level for so many years, I don't need a coach. I am better off coaching myself. I know very well what to do and what not to do. It's about having the right people to back you and support you.
On paper, Sri Lanka probably hold the edge. They have already had—and survived—a major wobble against Bangladesh, the leading wicket taker and the leading run scorer of the tournament are both on their team and they have already beaten Pakistan once. Confidence will be high, but it can so very easily transcend into complacency.
The Asia Cup has been competitive and enthralling and the perfect advert for how Cup competitions can add value to the cricket calendar outside of a World Cup context. The two sides contesting the showpiece game should deliver a fitting end to what has been an exciting competition.
Angelo Mathews still has a lot to learn as captain, but throughout the tournament has shown that he is growing as a lower-order batsman. He's not bowled much, but he is blossoming into his finishing role. Sri Lanka will need more of that from their skipper in the final.
Speaking of finishers, Shahid Afridi is having a good run of form with the bat and is as entertaining as ever. An injection of no-holds-barred hitting his exactly what Pakistan needs to lift them over the line. Whether Afridi can keep his cool and actually fulfill that role is another story.
Misbah-ul-Haq (c), Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Anwar Ali, Bilawal Bhatti, Fawad Alam, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Talha, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Sharjeel Khan, Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Akmal (wk), Umar Gul
Angelo Mathews (capt), Dinesh Chandimal (vice- capt),Lasith Malinga, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kusal Perera, Kumar Sangakkara(wk), Mahela Jayawardena, Lahiru Thirimanne, Thisara Perera, Nuwan Kulasekara, Suranga Lakmal, Chaturanga De Silva, Sachithra Senanayake, Ajantha Mendis, Ashan Priyanjan