(By Raja Ibrar)Rampaging Shahid Afridi and prolific Kumar Sangakkara have set the stage for a rousing contest when Pakistan face Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup one-day final in Dhaka on Saturday.
The charge was led by Sangakkara, the 36-year-old left-hander who has been in prime form during his team’s current tour of Bangladesh, which began with a bilateral series in January.
Sangakkara scored 75, 319 and 105 in two Test matches and 128 in the second one-day international to steer Sri Lanka to series wins in all three formats against the hosts.
The veteran has also played three match-winning innings in the Asia Cup, making 67 against Pakistan, 103 versus World Cup champions India and 76 against minnows Afghanistan.
He remains the leading scorer in the tournament with 248 runs despite falling cheaply for two in Thursday’s last league match against Bangladesh.
“It is great to have Sangakkara in such good form, but the others will also need to step up and rally around him if we are to win,” Mathews said.
“Pakistan has shown how tough a side they are to beat. But we have our plans and are confident of doing well if we execute them well.”
Pakistan, the defending champions, bounced back after the loss to Sri Lanka, qualifying for the final with three successive victories against Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh.
The mercurial Afridi fashioned two tense last-over wins, slamming an 18-ball 34 against India before making an astonishing 59 off 25 balls against Bangladesh.
Short boundaries at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium, where even mis-hits land over the fence, appear tailor-made for Afridi, and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq hoped for another power-packed display in the final.
“Afridi is our main player,” a grateful Misbah said.
“We just tell him to make sure he bats for at least 25-30 balls. If he does that he can score a 50.”