Tail-ender Asitha A dramatic two-wicket win against longtime rivals Bangladesh here on Thursday allowed Sri Lanka to advance to the Super 4 of the Asia Cup.
Fernando displayed exceptional coolness under pressure to strike two match-defining boundaries.
When off-spinner Mahedi Hasan overstepped while delivering the third ball in the last over, Sri Lanka, chasing a total of 184, triumphed.
The triumph wouldn’t have been conceivable without Fernando’s excellent temperament, even if Kusal Mendis (60 off 37 balls) and captain Dasun Shanaka (45 off 33 balls) helped to set it up.
To reduce the equation to eight runs in one over, debutant Fernando first smashed the last ball of the 19th over by Ebadot Hossain (3/51 in 4 overs) for a boundary.
Shakib Al Hasan, the captain of Bangladesh, was forced to bowl to the inexperienced Mahedi after using up all of Mustafizur Rahaman’s allotted overs. Fernando slog-swept his second delivery to decide the outcome of the match, which could have gone anyway for Ebadot.
The Sri Lankan cricket team added insult to injury by doing the “Nagin Dance,” invented by the Bangladeshi cricket team and has been used ever since.
The nimble speedster Ebadot, a member of the Bangladesh Air Force, had an intense opening two-over session in which he delivered three short balls that struck out three Lankan hitters.
Bhanuka Rajapaksa, the fourth Sri Lankan hitter, was also struck out by his speed bowling partner Taskin Ahmed using the bumper.
Khaled Mahmud Sujon, manager of the “Tigers,” took offense to Sri Lankan captain Shanaka’s claim that Bangladesh only possessed two world-class bowlers in opposing leader Shakib Al Hasan and cutter-master Mustafizur Rahaman.
Before Shanaka went out to demonstrate his prophecy, Ebadot, and Taskin, who had more speed and bounce, set out to disprove the Lankans.
Shanaka hit Ebadot for two sixes in the 13th over of the inning: one over deep mid-wicket and the other a pick-up pull behind square, totaling 22 runs in that over. That changed everything.
Mendis, who had kept the momentum going at one end, ultimately lost his life after making a solid 60 off 37 balls, which included four boundaries and three sixes, when his ramp shot off a delivery from Mustafizur was holed out in the area of the third man.
When Wanindu Hasaranga left, Shanaka continued manfully, pushing those limits since he was starting to run out of partners.
Left-arm spinner Mahedi made the crucial breakthrough as Shanaka (45 off 33 balls), who had to carry the load throughout the dying overs, was ultimately out attempting to play one shot too many.
Afif Hossain and Mosaddek Hossain played significant knocks at different points in the innings to enable Bangladesh to reach a dominant 183 for seven.
For the fifth wicket, Afif (39 off 22 balls) and Mahmudullah (27 off 22) contributed 57 runs in only 6.1 overs, giving Bangladesh the foundation they needed to surpass the 180-run threshold.
Mosaddek then had a magnificent cameo, scoring 24 runs in nine balls to aid Bangladesh in reaching a more acceptable total.
Both sides battled it out in the game that attracted attention owing to comments made by Sri Lankan captain Shanaka and a retort by Bangladesh team manager Sujon.
After the first innings, the score was “even Stevens,” as Sri Lanka performed well up until the 14th over before losing their way at the finish “without any world class bowlers,” as Mahmud had described the opposing assault.
On their end, Bangladesh could assert dominance because they maintained momentum despite losing wickets at regular intervals to achieve a problematic total.