The countdown is on for Asia Cup 2018 to be held in the United Arab Emirates. The six nation tournament will see India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Hong Kong battle it out for the title. Into its 14th edition, the tournament has seen some great individual performances from both batsmen and bowlers over the years. Champions have emerged over the past three decades and earned great laurels for their efforts. From inspiring hundreds to impressive shows with the ball, the tournament has really seen it all.
While some of these performances have come from the great cricketing icons of Asia, others were from players who remained on the fringes for their rest of their careers. Those players can be proud to have contributed a great moment in Asia Cup’s rich history. Let us look back at the ten best batting and bowling performances in the history of the tournament.
Top 10 Batting Performances in the Asia Cup
10. Shahid Afridi – 124 vs Bangladesh, Dambulla, 2010
‘Blitzkrieg’ is perhaps the only word that would define this knock from Pakistani skipper Shahid Afridi. Just consider this – he walked into bat with only 21 overs remaining in the Pakistani innings with the perfect platform already having been laid with the score at 176 for 4. From thereon, it was absolute carnage at Dambulla as the Bangladeshi attack looked clueless and helpless in the face of Afridi’s onslaught. Scoring at a strike rate in excess of 200, Afridi hit 17 fours and 4 sixes to take his side to a massive score of 385. While the Bangladeshis came up with some good batting performances, it was a chase that, in reality, they had already lost during the latter half of the Pakistani innings. Bangladesh were able to make only 246 runs in their 50 overs, losing the match by 139 runs in the end. Afridi, unsurprisingly, walked away with the Man of the Match Award for his memorable performance.
9. Sanath Jayasuriya– 125 vs India, Karachi, 2008
There was never a chance that Sanath Jayasuriya would miss being on the honours board for the best batting performances in the Asia Cup. With 1220 runs, which includes 6 hundreds, he is the most successful batsman in this tournament’s history and this was one of his very best knocks. Batting first, the Sri Lankans found themselves in a spot of bother, struggling at 66 for 4. Jayasuriya had to play a patient innings to hold the fort together and then went after the bowling in the later stage of the game scoring 125 runs off just 114 balls, including 9 fours and 5 sixes, taking the score to 273. It was a match-winning effort, as great bowling from Ajantha Mendis saw the Indians bowled out for 173 runs and Sri Lanka won the game by 100 runs.
8. Shoaib Malik – 125 vs India, Karachi, 2008
A hundred is always extra special for a batsmen when it comes in an India-Pakistan game. The emotions and tensions are high, but Pakistani skipper Shoaib Malik ensured none of this affected him as he brought up a fine century against the Indians, making 125 off 119 balls which included 16 fours and a six. Unfortunately, his brilliant innings was cut short as he had to leave the field retired hurt with the team being comfortably placed at 219 for 1. This cost the home side dearly as they stumbled to 299, which was disappointing given the platform that had been laid. India comfortably chased down the total with 6 wickets in hand and in the end one of Malik’s best ODI knocks was in vain.
7. Sanath Jayasuriya– 130 vs Bangladesh, Karachi, 2008
Jayasuriya played many murderous knocks in his career and this one would surely rank among the best. Batting first, Sri Lanka put a huge score of 332 on the board. This was mainly thanks to a blistering knock of 130 runs in just 88 balls by the Sri Lankan opener, pummelling 16 fours and 6 massive sixes. Jayasuriya was eventually caught out while trying to push up the scoring rate further in the 28th over of the innings, thus missing a chance to score a double hundred. Bangladesh were in tatters chasing this score and were bowled out for a tepid 174, which saw the Lankans win the match by a massive 158 runs. Not surprisingly, Jayasuriya was awarded the Man of the Match trophy for his efforts.
6. Arjuna Ranatunga – 131* vs India, Colombo 1997
It was an era when Sri Lanka were near invincible in their own backyard. India were sniffing victory having got rid of Sanath Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva, but Arjuna Ranatunga wasn’t going to give up without a fight. Coming in to bat when his side was struggling at 9 for 2 chasing 228 runs, Ranatunga produced a memorable captain’s knock to see his side through to victory, remaining unbeaten on 131 runs which was his highest score ever in ODIs. He sent 17 shots to the fence before eclipsing India’s total in the 45th over of the game, rightfully earning the Man of the Match award for his efforts.
5. Sourav Ganguly – 135* vs Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2000
2000 was a year when Sourav Ganguly could do no wrong. He had got on well in his new role as the Indian skipper, in the trying circumstances amidst match-fixing controversy, and scored 7 ODI hundreds in the year becoming the leading ODI run scorer. In what was to be his second century as captain, Ganguly took on the Bangladeshi bowling attack and made the run chase look easy. Chasing 249, he singlehandedly guided the Indian innings, scoring 135 runs off just 124 balls (included 6 fours and 7 massive sixes) and remaining unbeaten at the end of play. India chased down the total for the loss of 2 wickets and with 10 overs to spare. The Indian skipper was adjudged the Player of the Match for his performance in what was a typical Ganguly innings where he regularly took the spinners to the stands.
4. Virat Kohli – 136 versus Bangladesh, Fatullah, 2014
If there is a chase on hand and Virat Kohli is in charge of it and you would expect India to win the game nine out of ten times. His approach to chasing big totals has earned him the reputation of being the best second innings player in ODI cricket. On a difficult wicket Bangladesh had put up a decent score of 279 and the Indians were in a spot of bother at 54 for 2 in the 13th over. Kohli took charge of the situation from there, scoring a beautifully crafted innings of 136 runs from 122 balls which included 16 boundaries and two towering sixes. His innings helped Team India chase down the score comfortably with six wickets and one over in hand and Kohli earned Player of the Match honours.
3. Shoaib Malik – 143 vs India, Colombo, 2004
Shoaib Malik has always been at his best against arch-rivals India. Four out of his nine hundreds have come against the Indians including this one at Colombo. Batting first, he came into the crease when his side had lost the first wicket for just 2 runs. While wickets kept falling at the other end, Malik looked in sublime form as he hit 18 fours and a six during his career best knock, which helped his side reach a score of 300 despite the next best individual score being 34! It was a dominating performance by Malik that won his side this game much to the cheer of their fans. The Indians could manage only 241 runs in reply as Malik also contributed with the ball picking up two wickets, including that of Sachin Tendulkar. A very special performance.
2. Younis Khan – 144 vs Hong Kong, Colombo, 2004
It’s true that Hong Kong didn’t have a threatening bowling line-up, but nobody scores a big hundred just by turning up. 2004 was a time when Younis Khan was going through a purple patch in his career and scoring runs at will. Unfortunately for the Hong Kong bowlers, they ran into a player who was stroking every ball from the middle of the bat as he hit 8 fours and 3 sixes during his 122 ball stay at the crease. He started characteristically slow, then piled on the agony once he was set at the crease, launching the ball to all corners of the ground. This innings helped his side put 343 runs on the board and defeat Hong Kong by a massive margin of 174 runs in the end. The innings will be long remembered for the way Khan shifted gears in an instant.
1. Virat Kohli – 183 vs Pakistan, Dhaka, 2012
It is no surprise that the best innings in the Asia Cup came from unarguably one of the best batsmen in ODI cricket. Virat Kohli was yet to attain his superstar status in the game and was playing under the shadows of Sachin Tendulkar. This was one innings that solidified his reputation as the best chaser in ODI cricket. Batting first, Pakistan had made a mammoth 329 runs and India had a poor start losing Gautam Gambhir in the second ball of the innings. That, however, was to be Pakistan’s only moment worth rejoicing during the Indian innings, as Kohli slaughtered the attack. He put up his highest career score, smashing 24 boundaries and 183 runs from just 148 deliveries. In his bid to score a double hundred, Kohli perished in the 48th over but not before he had sealed a crucial win for his Indian team.
Top 10 Bowling Performances in the Asia Cup
10. Lasith Malinga – 5 for 52 vs Pakistan, Fatullah, 2014
This is one bowling performance that Lasith Malinga would cherish for the rest of his life, as it helped his side earn an win from the jaws of defeat. Sri Lanka, batting first, had put a good score of 296 on the board, but on a batting friendly wicket this could surely be chased down by the formidable batting line-up that Pakistan had at that time. While he went for runs in his first spell, Malinga came back strongly in the second half of the game when the Pakistanis were comfortably placed at 242 for 4 in the 43rd over. He picked up the wickets of Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, Shahid Afridi, Bilawal Bhatti, Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal in quick succession to wrap up the run chase and secure the game for his side by 12 runs.
9. Sohail Tanvir – 5 for 48 vs Sri Lanka, Karachi, 2008
The 2008 Asia Cup in Pakistan would be remembered by some for the number of five wicket hauls. There were 4 such performances, which is quite rare in ODI tournaments. In this game at Karachi, the Sri Lankan batsmen scored 302 runs and won the match comfortably by 64 runs, but they could have made much more if not for Sohail Tanvir, who made the best out of a pitch that offered no assistance to the fast bowlers and picked up wickets regularly to put the brakes on Sri Lankan scoring. His victims included Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Chamara Silva and Thilan Thushara. The manner in which he bowled a disciplined line on this batting friendly wicket is what stood out in this performance.
8. Farveez Maharoof – 5 for 42 vs India, Dambulla, 2010
It was an important match in the Asia Cup and the Indian team came to the venue with a strong batting line-up. Batting first, Indians looked well placed at 75 for 1. Coming to bowl in his second spell, Farveez Maharoof started by picking up the wicket of Virat Kohli to check the opponent’s run rate. But it was his bowling performance towards the end that sealed the fate of the game. The Indians were sitting pretty at 189 for 4 in the 38th over with Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni well set to take the team to a big score. Maharoof’s next 4 wickets changed the course of the game as Indian lost their last 6 for a mere 20 runs. His bowling, especially in the 38th over where he picked up a hattrick, helped him earn the Man of the Match award, as Sri Lankans won the game by 7 wickets.
7. Saqlain Mushtaq – 5 for 38 vs Bangladesh, Colombo 1997
It was a time when Saqlain Mushtaq, who was fondly called the Professor of Spin by his teammates, was at the peak of his career. Often the go-to man for his skipper on spinning wickets, he seldom let the team down and was a tough customer to bat against. He would fox the best batsmen in the world with his off spinners and doosras. On this occasion, the stage was set perfectly for Mushtaq. Pakistan had scored 319 batting first and from thereon it was Mushtaq’s game as he picked up wickets at regular intervals on a pitch that had very little in it for the bowlers. He claimed the important wicket of Athar Ali Khan, who held the Bangladeshi batting together, along with those of Aminul Islam, skipper Akram Khan, Khaled Mashud and Saiful Islam.
6. Lasith Malinga – 5 for 34 vs Pakistan, Dambulla, 2010
In a career that has stretched over a decade, Lasith Malinga has been a sensation in the ODIs. Any captain would love to have him in their side, especially during the death overs. And this performance against Pakistan is proof of that. Pakistan looked all set to chase down the total of 242 that Sri Lanka had put up. From 32 for 4 they had recovered to 156 for 5 and Shahid Afridi was going strong, hitting the attack out of the park. In the end it was Malinga that helped Sri Lanka win the contest by 16 runs, running through the lower order in one of the finest ever displays of death over bowling, picking up the wickets of Salman Butt, Umar Amin, Mohammad Amir, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif to set the perfect tone for the tournament.
5. Muttiah Muralitharan – 5 for 30 vs Bangladesh, Karachi, 2008
How could the list of best bowling performances at the Asia Cup not have Muttiah Muralitharan on the honours board? Arguably the best spinner in the history of the game, he grabbed his five wicket haul on a pitch that gave very little assistance to the bowlers. Batting first, Sri Lanka smashed a formidable score of 332. Bangladesh, after early hiccups, were comfortably placed at 92 for 2 in the 17th over. It was then that Muralitharan weaved his magic, troubling the Bangladeshi batsmen with his square turning off spinners and doosras. His spell put Bangladesh on the back foot and they were bundled out for 174 runs with the magician running through the middle order. Raqibul Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Alok Kapali, Abdur Razzak and Mashrafe Mortaza were his victims in the game.
4. Ajantha Mendis – 5 for 22 vs UAE, Larhore 2008
In a tournament where Mendis would come up with his career best bowling performance, this effort was ultimately just a trailer of what was to come. He had burst onto the International cricket scene, immediately becoming a star, and he lived up to the hype at Lahore against UAE. Set a big total of 291 to chase, the Emirati batsmen were playing a positive game stroking the strong Sri Lanka bowling attack. When Mendis arrived to bowl, the encounter looked well set for a thrilling finish with the newbies placing the Sri Lankans under serious pressure. But the Emirati batsmen had no answers to Mendis’ mystery off-breaks and leg-breaks as snared 5 wickets for 22 runs to crush their hopes of an unlikely upset.
3. Arshad Ayub – 5 for 21 vs Pakistan, Dhaka, 1988
Arshad Ayub isn’t someone most Indian fans would be able to recall today, as he played only 30 odd ODI games for his country and wasn’t a player who created a lot of headlines. But there was one bowling performance against arch-rivals Pakistan that he would be most likely remembered for. Ayub started by notching the important wicket of Rameez Raja and then, just when Pakistan looked set for a good total at 107 for 3, he really hit his stride, getting some great turn and bounce off the wicket. Ayub caused mayhem and soon reduced the Pakistani side to 124 for 7, before finally helping side wrap the Pakistani tail for just 142 runs. This allowed the Indians to chase down the small score easily and win this game. Three decades on, this remains the best bowling performance by an Indian bowler in Asia Cup.
2. Aaqib Javed – 5 for 19* vs India, Sharjah, 1995
Aaqib Javed was always a thorn in the side of the Indian team. Even though he generally lived in the shadows of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, you could always bet on Javed bringing out his best against the Indians. Like on many other occasions, this game from the 1995 Asia Cup would be best remembered for Javed’s bowling performance where he broke the back of India’s batting line-up. Chasing 267 for a win, the Indians needed a good start but Javed denied it to them, picking up both openers Sachin Tendulkar and Manoj Prabhakar cheaply. He then went on to dismiss Indian skipper Mohammad Azharduddin and wrapped up the Indian tail, adding two more wickets in the process. It was a truly outstanding performance from Javed, where he displayed the best of swing and seam movement with the new ball and then came up with threatening reverse swing with the older ball in his last spell.
1. Ajantha Mendis – 6 for 13 vs India, Karachi 2008
The stage doesn’t get any bigger than this. It was the final of the 2008 Asia Cup in Karachi and Ajantha Mendis bowled a spell that Sri Lankan fans would remember for ages. He had burst onto the scene a few months earlier and had the entire cricketing world taking notice of his unorthodox action. Batting first, the Sri Lankans had compiled a competitive score of 273. The Indians were well ahead of the asking rate and were comfortably placed at 76 for one in the 10th over. This is when Mendis came into the attack and picked up the vital wicket of Virender Sehwag. What followed next was a complete demolition of the strong Indian batting line up, as Mendis snapped up the wickets of Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and two tailenders. His 8 over spell sealed India’s fate as they were bundled out for 173 runs, surrendering victory by 100 runs to the Sri Lankans. Mendis was adjudged Man of the Match for his brilliance with the ball and his effort remains the finest bowling performance in Asia Cup history.
Image Credit: Tony Patterson