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Lanka crowned Asia’s best

Calcutta: Captain Angelo Mathews’s words said it all… “It was a big victory, not only for me, but also for the whole team.”

The five-wicket win over defending champions Pakistan in the Asia Cup final, at the Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, in Mirpur, on Saturday brought relief, more than joy, to Sri Lanka. After all, they won a final of a major tournament after a long time.

Failures in the finals of the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, and 2009 and 2012 World T20s, had earned the island nation the disrepute of choking in big matches. But they hit all such assumptions for a six with a masterly display on Saturday.

Lasith Malinga (5/56) and Lahiru Thirimanne (101) were the stars for Sri Lanka while former captain Mahela Jayawardene returned to form with a steady 75.

Malinga’s destructive spell won him the Man of the Match award, Thirimanne’s tournament aggregate of 279 runs fetched him the Man of the Series prize.

However, lost in the shine of Sri Lanka’s glorious show was the hard work of Fawad Alam, who had authored his maiden century (114 not out) to help Pakistan recover from a precarious 18 for three and post 260 for five on the board.

Excerpts

Angelo Mathews: We wanted to break the barrier between us and the final… I am glad that we did that today and the credit goes to the whole team for this success. Malinga set the tone for us beautifully. I thought the toss wasn’t that crucial today, but it was a very good run chase by us.

It was a big victory, not only for me, but also for the whole team. We haven’t won a tournament decider for a long time. I am really pleased with the performance of the boys.

It was a very tough call to leave out Ajantha Mendis today because he performs well whenever he is given an opportunity. But we wanted an extra death bowling option and Suranga Lakmal was brilliant.

I would like to thank the fans here in Dhaka as well as back home in Sri Lanka and also the selectors for supporting us and having faith in us.

Misbah-ul Haq: I think losing the first three wickets so early in the match put us under pressure. We did recover well after that, but we could have added 25-30 runs more. We didn’t do our basics right.

It wasn’t about the pressure of playing in a final… I think we just could not build enough pressure with the ball… Just didn’t execute our plans. We wanted not to give any wicket to Malinga, and in the end, all the five wickets were taken by Malinga.

Our bowling was not disciplined either. You need partnerships in bowling also. While Saeed Ajmal was bowling really well from one end, we couldn’t put pressure from the other and kept on leaking runs.

Overall, batting was a big positive for us in the series. Ahmed Shehzad, Shahid Afridi, Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal and Mohammed Hafeez all played really good knocks. Afridi was wonderful. They batted sensibly and contributed really well.

We have been playing here for the last 10 days. Most of the guys in the T20 side are in good form. So we have a great chance in the upcoming World T20.

Lasith Malinga (MoM): For the last couple of days, we have been training hard and we stuck to our basics in the big final. The rest helped as well. At the end of the day, I am happy that we have won the match.

I just tried to bowl with a good line and length. That works for me and that is good for the team.

I have done well in the last few matches against Pakistan and I’m looking forward to picking more wickets in the future.

Lahiru Thirimanne (MoS): I just wanted to play the anchor role today… We knew 261 was a gettable target and we knew that one of us had to take the responsibility of playing through the innings. I am really happy with my performance.

The ball was skidding on to the bat nicely… So I tried to use the pace of the ball and hence so many nudges around the corner.

This is my first Man of the Series award and I am really happy and proud about it.

Mahela Jayawardene: It was a team effort. I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t contribute to the team’s cause in the earlier matches. But the rest of the boys dragged me through. I am happy that I did my bit in the final. I tried to forget what I was going through during tournament and concentrated on the job at hand.

I don’t think there’s anything special between me and the finals. I just see the final as just another match and try and bat according to the situation. That’s what cricket is all about.

To go through a tournament without losing a match shows the character of the team. It wasn’t the case of one or two brilliant performances.

All the players stood up in crunch situations… All in all, it was a fantastic tournament for the boys.