The 14th edition of the Asia Cup is just round the corner, and with Asia being the cricketing powerhouse that it is, one can expect to witness a series of fascinating contests between 15-28 September.
The tournament that takes place in United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the third time in its history, will witness six teams in action, divided into two pools comprising three teams each, with Hong Kong being the only non-Test playing nation participating in the event.
The defending champions, India, as well as the team with the most number of titles (6), enter the tournament as favourites despite getting done with their marathon tour of England only on Tuesday. The Rohit Sharma-led ‘Men in Blue’, however, face strong competition from Pakistan, who not only carry the mental advantage of having hammered them in their last meeting over a year ago, but also boast of being ahead of others when it comes to knowing the conditions that will be up on offer at Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Given the quality of cricket that the South Asian nations possess, the tournament has over the years given rise to a number of quality contests, as well as many a memorable performance either with bat or ball. Here we take a look at some of the most memorable knocks in the history of the competition:
Virat Kohli, 183 not out vs Pakistan, 2012: An innings in which the future Indian captain gave a fine example of just how good he was in the art of chasing, while keeping India’s hopes in the tournament alive.
Pakistan posted a daunting score of 329/6, thanks to centuries from their openers Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez. India, on the other hand, were smarting from their five-wicket loss to Bangladesh in the previous game, and didn’t quite have the mental edge going into this fixture. What only made it worse was the dismissal of opener Gautam Gambhir off the second delivery of the match.
It took the in-form pair of Sachin Tendulkar and Kohli to bail India out of trouble as the pair added 133 for the second wicket. While Tendulkar perished after bringing up his half-century — in what would turn out to be his final ODI appearance — it was a Kohli show all the way thereafter. The Delhi lad made a mockery of what was an impressive bowling attack comprising Umar Gul, Aizaz Cheema, Wahab Riaz and spinner Saeed Ajmal, smacking 22 boundaries and a six along the way to notch the highest-ever individual score on the competition.
Sachin Tendulkar, 114 vs Bangladesh, 2012: The wait for Tendulkar’s iconic ‘Century of Centuries’ had begun back in the 2011 World Cup, right after he scored a 111 in a losing cause against South Africa in the group stage.
While bringing up the milestone in the final against Sri Lanka at his home ground of Wankhede would’ve been a fairytale finish indeed, the Master Blaster had to wait till March the following year to bring up that elusive ton, hitting 12 fours and a six to bring up a 147-ball 114.
Too bad for him the Indian bowling attack couldn’t seal off the special occasion by defending the 290-run target, as the hosts rode on a series of contributions from their top and middle-order to reach home with five wickets and four balls to spare. Another Tendulkar ton that ended up going in vain.
Sanath Jayasuriya, 125 vs India, 2008: India managed to scrape through to the final of the 2008 edition, which happened to be the last time the event was hosted in Pakistan. Despite being billed as a clash of two heavyweights, the events of the summit clash at Karachi’s National Stadium suggested anything but a competitive match.
Ishant Sharma gave India the early advantage with a three-wicket spell that reduced Sri Lanka to 66/4 in the 12th over. Jayasuriya, however, had other plans and weathered the storm, counter-attacking the bowlers in style.
Barring a couple of close calls, it was Jayasuriya at his classic best. His resolute innings helped the defending champions post 273 on the board, a total that Ajantha Mendis would later help defend with a destructive six-wicket haul.
Virat Kohli, 49 vs Pakistan, 2016: The only innings from the 2016 edition of the event, which was the first Asia Cup to take place in the 20-over format. While India had it relatively easy against the remaining sides taking part in the event, including Bangladesh in the final, arch-rivals Pakistan gave them a hard time in what turned out to be a keenly-contested encounter.
Despite being shot out for a lowly score of 83, Mohammed Amir kept the Pakistanis in the hunt thanks to a vicious opening spell, one that saw the backs of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Suresh Raina for scores of 0, 0 and 1 respectively.
Kohli used the occasion to highlight once again why he can rightfully claim to be the number one limited-overs batsman of his generation, as he managed to survive the Amir scare before bringing out his strokes. He was especially harsh on Wahab Riaz, who went for 31 runs off 3.3 overs, and guided India to the doorstep of victory before falling a run short of a half-century.
Arjuna Ranatunga, 131 not out vs India, 1997: A classic captain’s knock from the man who turned Sri Lankan cricket on its head in the mid-1990s. Set with a target of 228 — one that could be considered competitive in that era — hosts Sri Lanka were off to a shaky start after the early departures of Jayasuriya and Aravinda de Silva.
Ranatunga, who had forged the match-winning partnership alongside Aravinda in the 1996 World Cup final, steadied the ship for his side and found support from the likes of Marvan Atapattu and Lanka de Silva. Finishing unbeaten on 131 in a knock that was studded with 17 fours, he helped his team reach home with six wickets to spare.