Athapaththu said that Kulasuriya followed her directions word for word. It was all about denying the batters Aliya and Nida the room they needed to hit the ball over the 25-yard circle, which became doubly important because, at that moment, Sri Lanka were also dealing with an over-rate penalty. They could have only three fielders (one less than the usual four in women’s cricket) outside the circle in the last over.
“After 14 years, we are in the final of the Asia Cup,” Athapaththu said. “So it’s really good for us as a team, as a nation. We are really excited today. And I’m very happy about my team’s performance today. All players doing really well today.
“We planned a few things yesterday. We know Nida is a hard-hitter of Pakistan. Achini Kulasuriya is a really good, experienced bowler in our bowling line-up. I always trust her, and I know she can do it.”
Riaz, who was at the non-striker’s end when Pakistan needed three off the last ball, said that since it was hard to find boundaries, they might as well have tried for the two needed to take the game into the Super Over.
“I and Nida talked that if the boundary did not come, we would go for two runs,” Riaz said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. [Kulasuriya] bowled well, she bowled yorkers. On the last delivery, Nida tried to put it over extra cover but unfortunately, she could not connect well enough.”
Sri Lanka reacted impressively to take the lifeline they had earned thanks to Maroof’s wicket and it was all down to their captain urging the players to stay relaxed.
“I just told my team to stick with our plans,” Athapaththu said. “We did not want to do more things. Just relax, calm and cool, do our things. They do whatever they wanted to do, but we want to stick with our plans.
“Inoka bowled really well in that [19th] over. I have two good spinners and two good senior players especially vice-captain Oshadi and Inoka. If I have to take a decision, they advise me about taking them.
Riaz said that Pakistan had a good tournament but it would have been better had they made it to the final to face India. “Of course, it’s very disappointing. Everyone is sad. Everyone is very emotional and it’s very hard for everyone.