Asia Cup 2018 was played in September in the United Arab Emirates among the 5 ICC full members - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka. Hong Kong, the associate that won the 2018 Asia Cup qualifier, joined as the sixth team. Abu Dhabi and Dubai cricket grounds were the venues for all the matches.
The tournament consisted of two groups of 3 teams. The top two teams from each group then proceeded to the Super Four section of the competition where they played each other to decide the top two finalists. While India won the tournament in a last-ball thriller against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka failed to qualify for the Super Four section itself.
When it comes to Asia Cup Sri Lanka always start as favorites. In the previous 12 ODI Asia Cup tournaments, Sri Lanka was the best team in terms of the win-loss ratio. Even now their win-loss ratio is the best at 68%. Sri Lanka have won the trophy 5 times second only to India who now have 6 of them.
Sri Lanka must have been relieved at the prospect of playing relatively weaker teams in their group and would have been looking to get into the Super Four stage of the tournament without much trouble. They picked a mix of youth and experience in the team. This series was supposed to be a good team building exercise for them ahead of the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Three days. Two matches. Two defeats against lower ranked teams. That’s all it took Sri Lanka to crash out of the Asia Cup 2018. Worse teams have lasted longer. Very rarely we see two upsets in three days involving the same team. Very rarely you see a decent team fail in all possible areas of the game. Very rarely you see a team fail so miserably that they wished they had never participated.
The margins of the defeats were huge as well – 137 against Bangladesh and 91 against Afghanistan. The defeats were so comprehensive that it is hard on Bangladesh and Afghanistan to categorize these defeats as upsets. Both the matches were done and dusted well before the final whistle. Sri Lanka failed to show the spine in any of the departments whatsoever.
Sri Lanka brought back the legendary bowler Lasith Malinga to strengthen the pace squadron. This was the only ploy that worked for them in an otherwise forgettable Asia Cup. There were no other silver linings.
Malinga took 4 for 23 in the first match against Bangladesh. He could have had more if not for Sri Lanka’s sloppy fielding. They dropped overall four catches in that match. And to make the matter worse, two of them reprieved Mushfiqur Rahim who eventually went on to get a century and be the prime architect of Bangladesh’s win.
Let us not even get started with their running between the wickets. Down at 38 for 4, when finally it looked like Sri Lanka are getting back in the grove chasing 262 against Bangladesh, Mathews ran Danushka out in a horrible mix up.
This wasn’t the only time Mathews was responsible for a run-out. He ran the youngster Jayasuriya out when the pair was looking like getting Sri Lanka out of the hole again versus Afghanistan. Add to that the mix up between Dhananjaya de Silva and Upul Tharanga and we have complete recipe for disaster.
Fitness too seemed a matter concern for Sri Lanka. Angelo Mathews and Lasith Malinga looked visibly unfit while the rest of the team looked rusty in the outfield.
In both these matches, Sri Lanka never looked like winning but the thing that would hurt them the most is that they never looked like fighting too. Sri Lanka have gone back a couple of years in their preparation for the World Cup next year. The only good thing about being so down is that the only way now is up.
Immediately after the exit from Asia cup, Sri Lanka dropped Angelo Mathews for ODIs and T20I against England. It’s time the Sri Lankan team supports their new captain Kusal Perera and show a much-improved performance against England who themselves have come out of such a hole a few years back and are now one of the best teams in ODIs.
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