LAHORE - Sri Lanka’s bowlers demonstrated remarkable composure to thwart Afghanistan’s incredible run chase, securing their place in the Asia Cup 2023 Super 4s with a nail-biting 2-run victory here at Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday.
In a high-stakes match, Afghanistan faced the daunting task of chasing down 292 runs in just 37.1 overs to advance to the next round. They came agonizingly close to achieving this improbable feat, thanks to some explosive performances from their middle-order batters. However, it all boiled down to the final delivery when Afghanistan required just three runs to secure a spot in the Super 4s. Despite this setback, the match remained on a knife’s edge as Afghanistan needed only three runs off 77 balls with one wicket in hand. However, it was Dhananjaya de Silva, who clinched the victory for Sri Lanka by trapping Fazalhaq Farooqi in his leg.
Afghanistan’s pursuit began poorly, losing both openers, Rahmanullah Gurbaz (4) and Ibrahim Zadran (7), with just 27 runs on the board within the first five overs. Gulbadin fell in the ninth over, leaving Afghanistan reeling at 50/3. Rahmat and skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi then steadied the ship with a 71-run partnership, halting the loss of wickets but allowing the required run rate to escalate.
Hashmatullah’s dismissal, misjudging a slower ball from Kasun Rajitha and spooning it to Pathirana, further complicated Afghanistan’s task. Rahmat contributed 45 runs off 40 balls, featuring five fours and a six. Mohammad Nabi, coming in at number six with Afghanistan at 121/4 in 18.4 overs, turned the tide with aggressive hitting.
Nabi blazed through the Sri Lankan bowlers, registering the fastest half-century for Afghanistan in ODI cricket, taking just 24 deliveries. However, MaheeshTheekshana’s crucial wicket of Nabi in the 27th over provided a much-needed breakthrough for Sri Lanka. Nabi top-scored with a blistering 32- ball 65, including six boundaries and five sixes.
Afghanistan continued to score briskly with contributions from Karim Janat (22) and Hashmatullah Shahidi. But DunithWellalage removed both batters in the same over. Shahidi scored 59 off 66 balls, hitting three fours and a six. Najibullah Zadran and Rashid Khan then kept Afghanistan in the hunt with a vital partnership, adding 39 runs rapidly for the eighth wicket.
However, Kasun Rajitha’s crucial dismissal of Zadran dealt a major blow to Afghanistan’s hopes. Zadran scored 23 runs off 15 balls, while Rashid made unbeaten 27 runs off 16 balls. Leading Sri Lanka’s bowling attack, Kasun Rajitha finished with figures of 4/79, while Wellalage and de Silva claimed two wickets each.
Sri Lanka got off to a strong start after winning the toss, with Pathum Nissanka and Dimuth Karunaratne crafting a 63-run opening stand. However, Gulbadin Naib’s quick succession of three wickets reduced Sri Lanka to 86- 3. Nissanka contributed 41 runs in 40 balls, featuring six boundaries, while Karunaratne scored 32 off 35.
Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka then formed a resilient 102-run partnership for the fourth wicket, helping Sri Lanka recover from the early setbacks. Rashid Khan removed Asalanka, providing Afghanistan with a much-needed breakthrough. Mendis played a brisk 92-run knock off 84 balls, including six fours and three sixes.
Two balls later, Rashid Khan dismissed Shanaka, leaving Sri Lanka at 227-7. However, Wellalage and Theekshana counter-attacked with a 64-run stand, guiding Sri Lanka to a total of 291 runs in their allotted 50 overs. Wellalage hammered unbeaten 33 runs off 39 balls, while Theekshana struck 28 runs off 24. Gulbadin Naib clinched 4-60 and Rashid Khan chipped in with two wickets.