Rajapaksa and Co ‘planned to beat Bangladesh by hook or crook’

Hasaranga celebrates after dismissing Mahmudullah during the Asia Cup match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on September 1, 2022. Photo: AFP

Sri Lanka batter Bhanuka Rajapaksa offered an olive branch to the Bangladesh players and said his side planned to win their last night's Asia Cup encounter by any means.

And indeed, the Lankans somehow had the last laugh as Bangladesh suffered a two-wicket loss in defending 183-run total in Dubai. The Sri Lankan lower-order needed to get 25 runs from the final two overs and gained from the extra runs which came through wides and no-balls by Bangladesh bowlers.

"What we planned was to beat Bangladesh by hook or by crook," Rajapaksa told reporters yesterday.

Rajapaksa addressed the war of words that was triggered from Shanaka's comment after the Lankans lost their tournament opener against Afghanistan. The Sri Lanka captain mentioned that Bangladesh bowling would be an easier challenge in comparison to Afghanistan for the Lankans and that the Tigers lacked world-class bowlers apart from Mustafizur Rahman and Shakib Al Hasan.   

"The statement [regarding Bangladesh] that the captain made, I don't think he meant any wrong.

"Of course, when you compare the (dangerous) Afghanistan bowlers, what we meant was we had a slight advantage facing the Bangladeshi bowlers."

Rajapaksa further said, "Like India-Pakistan, Sri Lanka-Bangladesh is also a good rivalry, but we are friends off the field.

"Some words could hurt the players and hurt the staff. But what the captain meant was not what went through the media."

Shanaka's comment had Bangladesh team director Khaled Mahmud Sujon claim that the Lankans are devoid of any world-class bowler and consequently, former Sri Lanka cricketer Mahela Jayawardene spurred the Lankans by urging them to invalidate Mahmud's claim on the pitch.

Post-game, Jayawardene took to social media to praise the Sri Lanka team.

"Well done guys!!! Fantastic fight back to win this game under pressure.. safe to say it was a world class performance," Jayawardene posted on Twitter today.

Both Sri Lanka and Bangladesh lost their opening matches to Afghanistan, who sailed into the Super Four from the group.

Rajapaksa said his team went into hiding after their eight-wicket hammering to Afghanistan -- the team they face once more in the next round on Saturday.

"It was quite shameful for us, the 11 who played this game, and we were not expecting to be bowled out for 105," Rajapaksa said

"Of course Afghanistan is a pretty decent side when it comes to T20s but after the loss we went into a small shell for a couple of days, but we knew how to overcome that situation."

The hard-hitting left-hander said Sri Lanka are relishing having another crack at Afghanistan, who have emerged as genuine title-contenders.

"We managed to win and the motivation that the players have is immense, so going forward into Super Fours it will be quite interesting."