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Thirimanne ton takes SL to title

Sri Lanka 261 for 5 (Thirimanne 101, Jayawardene 75, Ajmal 3-26) beat Pakistan 260 for 5 (Fawad 114*, Misbah 65, U Akmal 59, Malinga 5-56) by five wickets

Thirimanne's idol Kumar Sangakkara had been cock of the Asia Cup walk for much of its duration, but in the final, his Padawan eclipsed him twice over. Thirimanne eased past Sangakkara on the tournament run-scorers' list, finishing comfortably atop the table with 279 runs. He also hit a hundred in a tournament final - a feat that has eluded Sangakkara in his 13-year career. Thirimanne would not have opened had Tillakaratne Dilshan been fit for the tournament, but he has now made a forceful case for a long-term place in the top three.

Malinga had largely saved his best work for the close in this tournament, but in his first three menacing overs with the new ball, he had gutted the Pakistan top order, and intimidated the opposition into prolonged reticence. Sharjeel Khan struck him for two spiffing offside boundaries, but Malinga soon swung one in to the left-hander to have him chipping to mid-on. His away-swing to the right-handers got Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez nicking behind in quick succession as well. Shehzad had aimed a punch through cover, Hafeez merely hung his bat out.

Misbah and Fawad were joined at 18 for 3, but slaves to a poor situation now, neither ventured the early aggression that might have helped set up a tall score. Pakistan's run-rate was below three until the 22nd over, and increased only in modest increments until the final flourish.

In contrast, Kusal Perera crashed Sri Lanka through the early overs of the chase, wailing on short balls like they owed him money while crunching sweet drives through the covers as well. He grew more selective with his slashes for the final, minimising some of the risks in his game, though the plays-and-misses were not altogether omitted. He made little use of a reprieve on 35, when Sharjeel Khan backpedaled unnecessarily at deep midwicket to tread on the rope, but his 42 off 37 ensured Sri Lanka would not be restrained inside the Powerplay, as Pakistan had been.

Perhaps Kusal could have been more watchful when Saeed Ajmal arrived, but the ball to dismiss him was a stunner. Drawing Kusal out of the crease with a flighted one, delivered wide of the crease from round the wicket, Ajmal had the ball dip and grip, beating Kusal's prod to create an easy stumping. Kumar Sangakkara barely registered the straighter one that thudded into his front pad next ball, replays showing it to be clipping leg stump. Jayawardene got a fizzing doosra for a hat-trick ball, which to his good fortune, would have missed the off stump.

Desperate for runs after a poor tournament, Jayawardene played Ajmal's first spell desperately late, reading intently out of the hand and off the surface, thrusting bat in front of pad to prevent an lbw. He squeezed through that gauntlet, girded somewhat by the sublime late cut that brought his first four, and then began to progress more freely. When he deposited a Shahid Afridi short ball deep into the leg-side stands in the 18th over, the steel in his eyes had returned in force. Typically, he prospered behind square on the off side, scoring almost 40% of his 75 runs there.

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