No team had won after losing the toss in Dubai at the tournament before the final. Sri Lanka did it despite slipping to 58 for 5. It was their only win batting first in the competition after four back-to-back chases. “If you’re a champion team, you need to be a champion irrespective of whether it’s first innings or second innings,” Saqlain said at the press interaction. “In the previous game, they asked us to bat first and won. In this game, we batted second and they still won. The way they played in both games, it’s well-deserved.”
On Sunday, Rizwan made a battling 55 off 49, before being dismissed in the 17th over. By then, the general sense was that he had perhaps left Pakistan with a tad too much to achieve in the final four overs – they needed 61 with six wickets in hand. The dismissals of Rizwan, Asif Ali and Khushdil Shah – all to Wanindu Hasaranga – all but meant curtains for Pakistan. The target was beyond them after that.
Saqlain fielded the questions patiently, and gave the answers his own unique twist, like he did with his doosra when he played.
“Every team and player has their own style and methods,” Saqlain said in Rizwan’s defence. “The way we played, we reached semi-finals of the T20 World Cup last year, we got to the final of an Asia Cup here. Evidence suggests you’re doing something right to get here.
“It’s not compulsory that you do what the rest of the world is doing [in terms of strike rates and showing more intent with the bat]. We’d rather focus on the small things we aren’t doing right instead of looking at what others are doing. His andaaz [method] is not bad.”
“We played just nine overs of good cricket; after that they dominated for 31 overs in all aspects”
Babar had a poor tournament. The 30 he made in a dead rubber against Sri Lanka prior to the final was his highest score in six outings. It didn’t seem to matter that Babar had three consecutive half-centuries leading into the Asia Cup, in the ODIs against Netherlands in Rotterdam.
“You need to show faith, trust and belief,” Saqlain said, seemingly running a little low on patience by this point. “If you keep shuffling, it sends a message that you don’t trust them. After the second match itself, there was chatter about our batting shuffle. I don’t follow social media, but you do hear the murmurs. You need to give time. If you keep shuffling, how will you know? Whatever we did, it’s not good to shuffle a lot. It sends a wrong message.”
Rajapaksa had breathed fire into a fumbling innings by making an unbeaten 41-ball 75, which helped lift Sri Lanka from a seemingly hopeless 58 for 5 in 8.5 overs. They finished with 170 for 6, which at the time seemed just about par, but also quite challenging considering the stage.
“The way they played today, we played just nine overs of good cricket. After that they dominated for 31 overs in all aspects,” Saqlain said. “They have been playing brilliant cricket; credit goes to all the boys. Looks like they are on top of the world. The way they played against India and got momentum against Afghanistan, a lot of praise for all of them.
“I’ll credit the Sri Lankans. We’d broken their backbone in the first nine overs, but the way Rajapaksa played, and the others rallied around him, no praise is enough. I’m sure it should be the best innings of his life. The way he lifted them, hats off.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo