The high-octane Asia Cup 2022 concluded on Sunday (September 11) with Sri Lanka clinching their sixth title. The Dasun Shanaka-led side defeated Babar Azam’s Pakistan by 23 runs in the final to taste glory at the Dubai International Stadium.
Sri Lanka demonstrated an exceptional level of resurgence throughout the tournament while facing numerous on- and off-field challenges. The Islanders went on a five-match winning streak to win the trophy after their humiliating loss in their first game against Afghanistan.
The Asia Cup 2022 will be remembered for its nerve-racking moments and nail-biting clashes throughout the campaign. A few standout performances will also linger on in people’s minds. Some unfancied sides, including the eventual winners, punched above their weight and there were runs and wickets galore all the way through.
On that note, here is our best playing XI from the recently-concluded 15th edition of the Asia Cup that was played between August 27 and September 11, 2022.
Openers – Mohammad Rizwan (WK) and Kusal Mendis
Mohammad Rizwan was brilliant at the Asia Cup but needed more support from his teammates.
Pakistan star Mohammad Rizwan was the only consistent batter for his team, holding one end up without much support from the other side. This lack of support was the major reason behind his low strike rate of around 117 in the competition.
Rizwan, however, was the highest run-scorer in the Asia Cup, mustering 281 runs at an average of 56.2. He was dismissed inside the powerplay only once in the six matches he played in the Asia Cup, often anchoring Pakistan’s innings to set them up for big totals.
Opening the innings alongside Rizwan in this XI is Asia Cup 2022 winner Kusal Mendis.
While the Sri Lankan opener failed to make his mark in the final, Mendis performed admirably prior to that. Alongside his partner Pathum Nissanka, he provided steady starts for his side in the tournament. Nissanka played second fiddle to Mendis, who accumulated 155 runs from six matches at a blistering rate of 156.7.
Middle-order – Virat Kohli, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Dasun Shanaka
Virat Kohli scored a ton for India during their Asia Cup 2022 clash against Afghanistan.
Perhaps a major silver lining from India’s disappointing Asia Cup 2022 campaign was Virat Kohli‘s return to form.
The tournament saw Kohli channel his consistent best as he amassed 276 runs from five games. His astronomical average of 92.00 was the most by any batter in this year’s Asia Cup.
Making a comeback after a six-week long break, Kohli notched up a couple of half-centuries against Hong Kong and Pakistan. He then hit his elusive 71st international ton in India’s last game against Afghanistan, ending on an unbeaten 122 from just 61 balls.
At the heart of this team’s middle-order is the Player of the Match from the Asia Cup 2022 final, Bhanuka Rajapaksa.
The hard-hitting southpaw brought fearlessness to the fore and belted some valuable runs for his side throughout the tournament. With his match-winning unbeaten 71 off 45 in the final, Rajapaksa ended his campaign with 191 runs at a strike rate of 149.2 and an average of 47.70.
Earlier in the tournament, Rajapaksa stitched together some crucial partnerships alongside his skipper Dasun Shanaka, who is next on our list.
While he may not have recorded outstanding numbers, Shanaka was instrumental in his side’s success at the Asia Cup 2022. Not only did the all-rounder finish a few games for Sri Lanka, he was an active contributor on the field with some crucial catches.
Most importantly, as the leader of the pack, Shanaka guided his troops over the line in the competition after a difficult start.
The 31-year old scored 111 runs at a strike rate of 139 at this year’s Asia Cup. This included knocks of 45 from 33 against Bangladesh and 33 not out from 18 against India, which helped his side recover from tricky positions.
He also picked up the wickets of Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya to turn the tide in his side’s favor during their match against the Men in Blue.
All-rounders – Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan and Wanindu Hasaranga
Wanindu Hasaranga spun a web around Pakistan to help Sri Lanka seal victory in the Asia Cup final.
The left-arm right-arm spin combination bossed the middle phase of matches, with the duo picking up 16 wickets between them in the tournament. Nawaz and Shadab also proved to be extremely economical, leaking just 5.89 and 6.05 runs per over in the competition, respectively.
They did their best with the bat in hand as well. Nawaz stunned everyone with his counter-attacking knock of 42 from 20 balls against India, while Shadab came up with a helpful 36 off 26 in a tight game against Afghanistan.
Another tweaker who impressed once again with his wily leg-spin was Sri Lanka’s Wanindu Hasaranga. The Galle-born bowling all-rounder was his country’s prime threat leading into the tournament and he met the expectations ably.
Hasaranga had a slow start to his campaign and picked up just a couple of wickets in the first four games. However, he delivered when it mattered the most for Sri Lanka. He picked up three scalps in their last Super 4s fixture before his three-wicket over in the final effectively sealed the contest for the Islanders.
Hasaranga proved equally crucial with the bat in the final well. His 21-ball 36 at a strike rate of 171.4 and his vital partnership with Rajapaksa helped Sri Lanka recover from 58/5 to post a match-winning total of 170/6.
Bowlers – Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Naseem Shah was one of the finds of the tournament thanks to his spectacular displays.
Hit with the news of an injury to premier pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, Pakistan’s pace attack needed vigor and verve ahead of the Asia Cup 2022. Up stepped youngster Naseem Shah, who spectacularly shouldered the burden of spearheading the Men in Green’s bowling line-up.
The 19-year old made an instant impact, cleaning up KL Rahul with just his second delivery in the tournament. Shah, who clocked 140+ kmph regularly at the Asia Cup, breathed fire throughout the campaign and took seven scalps at an average of below 20 in five games.
He troubled the batters with pace and swing. Additionally, his heroic cameo against Afghanistan in the Super 4s stage sealed Pakistan’s spot in the final.
Another Pakistan pacer who was unstoppable at the Asia Cup 2022 was Haris Rauf. The Rawalpindi-born cricketer was arguably the fastest bowler in the tournament, touching 150 kmph consistently.
Despite bowling the tougher overs for Pakistan, Rauf took eight wickets in six matches and managed an economy rate of just 7.6. His hard-length deliveries were difficult to get away and he complimented Naseem Shah and the other pacers really well.
Rauf’s best performance came in the final. He rattled the Lankan batters thrice and even bowled one of the balls of the tournament to clean up Danushka Gunathilaka.
Capping off our list at No. 11 is Afghanistan’s crafty bowler Mujeeb Ur Rahman.
The right-arm mystery spinner performed exceedingly well, especially in the powerplay. Four of Mujeeb’s seven scalps in the Asia Cup 2022 came during the first six overs as he dried up the runs and mounted pressure on the batters from one end.
Most impressively, Rehman was frugal and had an excellent economy rate of just 5.5 in the tournament despite bowling most of his overs inside the powerplay. It was the best economy rate among all bowlers who bowled more than six overs.
Unfortunately for Rehman, Afghanistan failed to make it to the final of the tournament after a heartbreaking loss against Pakistan in the Super 4s stage.
Honorable mentions: Dilshan Madhushanka, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Pathum Nissanka.
Best XI of the Asia Cup 2022: Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Kusal Mendis, Virat Kohli, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Dasun Shanaka (c), Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Wanindu Hasaranga, Naseem Shah, Haris Rauf and Mujeeb Ur Rahman.