Asia Cup 2014: Breaking Down Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of Finalists

Rory Marsden@@roomarsdenFeatured ColumnistMarch 7, 2014

Sri Lanka’s Lasith Malinga, right, 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. (AP Photo/A.M. Ahad)
A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Sri Lanka and Pakistan will deservedly contest the Asia Cup 2014 final on Saturday, March 8, having clearly been the best two teams in the competition.

Angelo Mathews' Sri Lanka side have been dominant so far in the five-team tournament, winning all four of their matches in the round-robin group stage, including a 12-run victory over Pakistan.

However, Misbah-ul-Haq's defending champions will be a stern test for Sri Lanka in the final, with bags of quality in the side.

Read on for an analysis of both teams' strengths and weaknesses.


Sri Lanka

A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Strength in depth is probably Sri Lanka's biggest asset, especially in the batting department.

As displayed in their final group game against Bangladesh, they are capable of fashioning a result even when their top-order batsmen do not fire.

Sri Lanka fell to 8-3 in their pursuit of Bangladesh's 204, but some cool play from the middle order and Mathews' 74 not out guided them to the win.

As well as their quality throughout the side, Sri Lanka have some proven match-winners in the shape of Kumar Sangakkara and Lasith Malinga.

Sangakkara has top-scored in the competition with 248 runs at an average of 62, per ESPN Cricinfo. If the 36-year-old can get a big score, Sri Lanka will be difficult to beat.

And in 30-year-old Malinga they boast possibly the world's best death bowler. His stunning five-wicket spell against Pakistan in the group stages won Sri Lanka the game. A repeat of that would be bad news for their opponents.

Sri Lanka's weaknesses lie at the top of their batting order. Whilst Sangakkara has been in brilliant form, veteran Mahela Jayawardene has not been performing well of late.

The 36-year-old has scored only 36 runs in total throughout the tournament. Over-reliance on Sangakkara at the top of the order could cost them.

If they find themselves at 8-3 on Saturday, Pakistan will likely punish them more than Bangladesh could.



A.M. Ahad/Associated Press

Pakistan's batsmen have been strong—especially Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal, who are both top-five run scorers in the tournament.

Furthermore, they have the mercurial Shahid Afridi lower down the order, who has contributed two match-winning innings in the last three games.

An 18-ball 34 against India preceded a quite incredible 59 off 25 balls against Bangladesh from the 34-year-old all-rounder.

Paired with their strength in batting, they also have a good bowling attack. With eight wickets so far in the tournament, Saeed Ajmal is a proven threat and will be dangerous on Saturday.

However, other front-line bowlers—including Umar Gul and Mohammad Talha—have been expensive going at more than a run a ball. They will have to be more economical in the final. 

Inconsistency is Pakistan's greatest weakness. Whilst capable of great things when on form, they are prone to a collapse. 

Although he is clearly up to the task, Pakistan will not want Afridi to have to get them out of jail once again. If the lower order collapse against Malinga as they did in the group stages, Pakistan will be in trouble.