Title up for grabs as Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in Asia Cup final

Sri Lanka are chasing a sixth Asia Cup title and Pakistan their third when the two teams meet in the eagerly awaited final in Dubai on Sunday.

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How Pakistan can win

It's not very often that Babar Azam is struggling in the runs department, but the Pakistan captain is certainly finding scoring tough so far at the Asia Cup.

Babar has just 63 runs from five hits and that dip in form has seen the champion right-hander lose top spot to team-mate Mohammad Rizwan on the latest ICC Men's T20I Player Rankings for batters.

Rizwan has two half-centuries and a total of 226 runs so far at the tournament, but he generally does not score as quickly as his captain and Pakistan will be hard to beat if their skipper can also fire with the bat.

Mohammad Nawaz and Shadab Khan have bowled well for Pakistan this tournament and young quick Naseem Shah has already shown he is a capable match-winner with both bat and ball with a string of impressive performances.

How Sri Lanka can win

While Sri Lanka have got an even performance from a host of their stars so far in Dubai, there's no doubt that star all-rounder Wanindu Hasaranga remains the key man heading into the tournament decider.

Hasaranga showed his class with a brilliant spell of 3/21 during Sri Lanka's final Super 4 match against Pakistan and the 25-year-old is a proven big game performer having finished last year's ICC T20 World Cup as the leading wicket-taker for the entire tournament.

The right-armer also has the tendency to claim key wickets, with Pakistan skipper Babar Azam and crucial batters Iftikhar Ahmed and Asif Ali his three victims during that match just two days ago.

That's not to say Sri Lanka are a one-man side with the ball as underrated pacer Dilshan Madushanka and fellow spinner Maheesh Theekshana have also bowled well at various times for the island nation.

What other factors are critical in deciding the result?

We saw during last year's ICC T20 World Cup that teams chasing were seemingly favoured by the conditions in United Arab Emirates and Oman and this trend has continued at the Asia Cup.

The team batting first has won just three matches at the tournament thus far and it's likely that the winning captain will once again elect to field should the coin flip go their way at the toss on Sunday.

History says

While India have dominated the Asia Cup throughout its existence with a total of seven titles, Sri Lanka aren't far behind them with a total of five and the most recent of those came in 2014 when they defeated Pakistan by five wickets in the final in Bangladesh.

That was both teams most recent appearance in an Asia Cup final, but a lot has changed since that decider some eight years with this year's tournament reverting to the shortest format and played under T20I conditions.

Pakistan have surprisingly won the Asia Cup just twice, with their most recent triumph coming back in 2012 under the captaincy of Misbah-ul-Haq.

Team news

It is unlikely that either team will tinker too much with their line-up, although Pakistan will likely insert the players that were rested for the dress rehearsal match against Sri Lanka on Friday.

That means a recall for Shadab Khan and Naseem Shah, with Usman Qadir and Hasan Ali the duo likely to miss out.

Sri Lanka's XI looks very settled, with Kusal Mendis and Pathum Nissanka set to continue their flourishing partnership at the top of the batting order and skipper Dasun Shanaka likely to steer the ship in his pivotal role in the middle-order.

Likely Pakistan XI: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain

Likely Sri Lanka XI: Kusal Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Dhananjaya de Silva, Danushka Gunathilaka, Dasun Shanaka (c), Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Chamika Karunaratne, Wanindu Hasaranga, Maheesh Theekshana, Pramod Madushan, Dilshan Madushanka

 

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