SHARJAH  -   Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s 45-ball 84 (4x4, 6x6) was overshad­owed by cameos from Bhanuka Rajapaksa (31, 14b, 4x4 1x6) and Danushka Gunathilaka (33, 20b, 2x4, 2x6) and good death-bowling as Sri Lanka beat Af­ghanistan by four wickets in the Super 4 stage of the 2022 Asia Cup in Sharjah on Saturday.

Chasing 176, Sri Lanka was 82 for two after 10 overs and 127 for four after 15. Need­ing 49 in 30 balls, Rajapaksa targeted Naveen-ul-Haq in the 16th over, hitting two fours and a six and enjoyed a slice of luck when he was dropped in the same over. It proved costly.

Earlier, Rashid Khan was brought on in the sixth over with two right-handers at the crease. But Kusal Mendis slog-swept him for two back-to-back sixes as Sri Lanka raced to 57 for no loss after six overs. How­ever, Mendis was caught off Naveen in the very next over. Pathum Nissanka hung around for a while before falling to Mu­jeeb Ur Rahman (two for 30).

When Charith Asalanka in­side edged Mohammad Nabi onto his stumps, there was a momentum shift. But some or­dinary ground fielding allied with poor catching - there were two dropped chances - to ca­talyse Sri Lanka’s win. Rashid’s off day - he went for 39 and took one wicket - did not help.

Afghanistan’s focus while batting was maximising the PowerPlay. Opener Gurbaz took Afghanistan to 49 for one after the first six overs on a slow and low pitch. Gurbaz got a reprieve when he was caught at long-on off MaheeshTheek­shana in the third over, but the fielder’s foot had touched the boundary skirting. He was on nine at the time. 

Gurbaz was bold but not fool­hardy in his approach, running well between the wickets when the boundaries dried up from overs nine to 12. The highlight was his 22-ball 50, which he celebrated by waving his bat towards the fans while double-punching the national crest on his shirt. However, Afghanistan lost five wickets for 37 in the last five overs, which was deci­sive in the end.