Fans had made a truce with Pakistan’s elimination in the previous tournament but it was a bitter pill to swallow this time as it came at home…..
The Asia Cup of 2008 was the first of its kind hosted by Pakistan in the history of the tournament. It was the first major tournament hosted in the country since the 1996 World Cup. It was Sri Lanka back then who had lifted the Trophy in Pakistan’s backyard. 12 years down the line, as another major event in the form of Asia Cup came home, Pakistan lost the opportunity to seal their deal to the same team once again.
It was supposed to be Pakistan’s party all the way. Pakistan was supposed to be calling all the shots. They did that throughout the tournament though. But it was India and Sri Lanka who stole the show towards the end.
The tournament started once again in a similar manner to that of the previous edition of 2004. Bangladesh and Pakistan won comprehensively against the associate nations UAE and Hong Kong on the opening day. The victory margins—96 runs for Bangladesh and 155 runs for Pakistan—helped them with a good headstart in the tournament. While Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the UAE constituted Group A, India, Pakistan and Hong Kong were parts of Group B.
The next day saw a dominating performance from Sri Lanka over Bangladesh at Lahore. It was Kumar Sangakkara’s 101 that propelled the Islanders to a massive score of 357/9 and then their bowlers finished the job restricting Bangladesh to a paltry 226/7. On the other side, India drubbed Hong Kong with a 256-run victory at Karachi. It was helped by the swashbuckling MS Dhoni’s innings of 109 runs that propelled India to a score of 374/4.
The final day of the group stage turned out to be pretty easy for Sri Lanka once again as they registered a commanding victory over UAE by 142 runs. It was helped by Ajantha Mendis’ splendid spell of 5/22 that totally bamboozled the UAE batsmen.
India tame Pakistan bowling attack
However, it was the other match at Karachi on the same day, between India and Pakistan, that actually set the tournament running.
The first inning saw a commanding batting performance from Pakistan as Shoaib Malik’s terrific knock of 125 helped his team in posting a high total of 299/4 on the board. India thus needed exactly 300 runs to win but the chase was going to be anything but easy for them.
But the Indian batsmen made a complete mockery out of Pakistan’s bowling attack as they chased down the target with 47 deliveries to spare. It was the duo of Virender Sehwag and Suresh Raina that completely demolished the attack with innings of 119 and 84 runs respectively. It was heartbreaking for the Pakistan fans to see their team lose like this at home. Pakistan had to make up for that loss. The fans deserved a good performance next match.
Kapali shines, but India win
It was now time for the Super Fours. There were no surprises and India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan were the teams remaining as expected. Bangladesh gave it their best shot in the opening game as they rode on Alok Kapali’s swashbuckling knock of 115 runs to post a challenging total of 283/6 on the board.
However, the Indian juggernaut proved to be too good for them. Just like their last match against Pakistan, the Indian team chased down the total with ease. It was Suresh Raina’s unbeaten 115 that helped them to climb the hill with 7wickets and 40 deliveries to spare.
Dominating Sri Lanka
The next couple of days was all about Sri Lanka. First, they dominated Pakistan all throughout the match and registered a commanding victory by 64 runs. Then, they thrashed a hapless Bangladeshi side by 158 runs in their next match. The Lions looked to be in their prime form and proved to be too good for the Tigers.
But it was the match on the very next day, on 2nd July, that gave the Pakistani fans immense joy and pride. Pakistan avenged their previous loss against India in the group stage with a comprehensive victory in this one. India had once again posted a very good total of 308/7 on the board. But Younis Khan produced a masterclass of an innings — an unbeaten knock of 123 runs off 117 deliveries— to help Pakistan chase down the total with 8 wickets and 27 deliveries to spare.
The following two matches saw a competitive match between India and Sri Lanka that once again saw India chasing down a 300 plus total with ease. This was the third time in four matches that they had chased down a 300 plus total. And in the final match of the Super Fours, it was Pakistan who mauled Bangladesh by 10 wickets in a run chase of only 116 runs. All they took to chase down the total was 19.4 overs.
However, it still wasn’t enough to earn a bonus point. For the second time in two editions, Pakistan perished because of the bonus point despite having better net run rate and equal match points as India. Fans had made a truce with their elimination in the previous tournament but it was a bitter pill to swallow this time as it came at home. But they had to bear with it this time as well and the finalists —India and Sri Lanka—deserved appreciation and applause for emerging as the better teams in the tournament.
The magic of Ajantha Mendis
The night of the finals had come.
And the most familiar opponents in the tournament history were gearing up to lock horns for the title once again. Sri Lanka were the defending champions and India had their eyes on regaining the title.
A thrilling match was on the cards. When Sri Lanka were bowled out for 273 runs, an innings that included a fabulous knock of 125 runs off just 114 deliveries from Sanath Jayasuriya, the stage was all set for a show of skill and thrill.
Virender Sehwag started in his own attacking manner as he smashed 60 runs in just 36 deliveries. But it was all Sri Lanka from there on. Ajantha Mendis produced a magical spell of 6/13 that destroyed the Indian batting lineup completely. The Indian batsmen had no clue about Mendis’ tricks and were totally bamboozled and bowled over by his mysterious deliveries. A total of 173 runs was all they could manage as they lost the match by exactly a 100 runs. Sri Lanka thus defended their title successfully and it was probably one of the heaviest defeat that India has ever suffered in a final.