Lahiru Thirimanne returned to torment Pakistan again as in-form Sri Lanka lifted the Asia Cup title after their comprehensive five-wicket victory in the final on Saturday.
Thirimanne, who hit a century in the Cup opener against Pakistan, replicated that by hitting a sparkling 101 and featured in a 156-run partnership with Mahela Jayawardene as Sri Lanka chased the 261-run victory target with 22 balls to spare.
Unbeaten in the tournament, Sri Lanka began strongly with their openers putting on a half-century stand before Saeed Ajmal dismissed Kusal Perera (42) and the scoreless Kumar Sangakkara, leading scorer in the tournament until the final, off successive deliveries to reduce them to 56-2 in the 11th over.
Jayawardene (75) not only denied Ajmal a hat-trick, but also shook off his bad form to forge a match-winning stand with Thirimanne against a Pakistan team whose sloppy performance on the field did little to help their cause of defending a modest total.
Thirimanne fell to Ajmal in the 45th over after his third one-day international century that contained 13 boundaries, but the match was already over for Pakistan by then.
Earlier, Fawad Alam (114 not out) struck his maiden century, while skipper Misbah-ul-Haq (65) and Umar Akmal (59) chipped in with useful half-centuries to help Pakistan overcome a wobbly start and post 260 for five wickets — all claimed by Lasith Malinga.
Fawad featured in two century-plus stands with Misbah and Umar, as Pakistan recovered from 18-3 in five overs to eventually post a somewhat competitive total.
Misbah was left to rue his decision to bat first at Shere Bangla National Stadium in the Pakistani city of Mirpur as Malinga’s early three-wicket burst left the defending champions reeling.
Having seen two of his first three deliveries race to the boundary, Malinga had Sharjeel Khan caught at mid-on with his sixth.
The pacer with blond-tinted hair and a sling-shot action dismissed Ahmed Shehzad with the final delivery of his second over and removed Mohammad Hafeez in his next over to compound Pakistan’s misery.
It could have been even worse, but Hafeez was dropped on three, while Misbah appeared to have nicked an Angelo Mathews delivery when on 19, although umpire Bruce Oxenford felt otherwise.
Misbah went on to raise 122 runs with Fawad to arrest the slide, forcing Mathews to bring back Malinga, who dismissed the Pakistan captain for 65 with his fourth delivery of that over.
Fawad, dropped by Chaturanga de Silva at cover on 92, reached his maiden 100 with an effortless six off Thisara Perera and got ample support from Akmal.
Akmal fell in the final over to Malinga, who was named man of the match for his 5-56 bowling figure.