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Clinical Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka to get another World Cup 2023 win | Cricket


Clinical Afghanistan beat Sri Lanka to get another World Cup 2023 win | Cricket


It was a clash between two teams that had defeated higher-ranked opponents in their previous outings. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, on four points each after five games in the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, would have believed they could remain in the semi-finals race. But riding on a superb all-round display, it was Afghanistan who clinched a seven-wicket win in Pune and added two crucial points to their tally.

Afghanistan's players acknowledge the crowd after winning their match against Sri Lanka during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup match in Pune(AP)
Afghanistan’s players acknowledge the crowd after winning their match against Sri Lanka during the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup match in Pune(AP)

Afghanistan’s last encounter with Sri Lanka, less than a month earlier at the Asia Cup, had produced a thriller. Hashmatullah Shahidi and Co had suffered a heartbreaking two-run defeat that day and failed to qualify for the Super Fours after miscalculating how many balls they needed to chase down the total.

On Monday, though, the Afghans left nothing to chance with a clinical performance. Opting to field first, they bowled-out Sri Lanka for 241 runs in 49.3 overs. And with the bat, they showcased great composure once again to finish with 242/3 in 45.2 overs.

The result took Afghanistan, who had stunned England and Pakistan earlier in the tournament, to fifth position on the table. Sri Lanka, who had won their last two games against Netherlands and England after a hat-trick of defeats, slipped to the sixth spot.

Chasing a sizeable target against Pakistan in their last match, Afghanistan had batted with incredible maturity to show the world how far they’ve come. Against Sri Lanka, there was more of the same on display.

Dilshan Madushanka cleaned up the in-form Rahmanullah Gurbaz with a peach of a delivery in the first over. How did Afghanistan respond? Ibrahim Zadran and Rahmat Shah kept finding boundaries in a 73-run stand. Madushanka struck for a second time to dismiss Zadran and once again, Rahmat and Shahidi buckled down to rotate the strike and pick the odd boundary in a 58-run stand.

Finally, Sri Lanka got a glimmer of hope as Kasun Rajitha got the better of Rahmat in the 28th over. Afghanistan needed 111 runs to win at that point but they didn’t panic in the slightest. Shahidi and Azmatullah Omarzai stuck to the template, with the latter being more of the aggressor, to add an unbeaten partnership.

It was another magnificent chase… another statement by a team that’s sure of its ability and has the courage and skill to execute its plans.

Earlier, Sri Lanka’s batters put forth a lacklustre performance in what were helpful conditions.

A total of eight ODIs had been hosted in Pune before Monday’s match and the average first innings total was 301.5. Once again, the pitch was flat and had decent carry for the Afghan pacers who weren’t express by any means. In terms of spin, too, there was precious little assistance for Rashid Khan and Co. There was, however, a strange dark patch running across the good length area on one end of the surface. Whether or not that bothered the batters is anyone’s guess, but there was no denying that Sri Lanka had posted a below-par score.

Afghanistan’s bowlers deserved immense credit for putting their team in the driver’s seat at the halfway stage. Fazalhaq Farooqi, in particular, showed great variety in his spell. The left-arm pacer had been dropped for the previous game against Pakistan, as his team opted for the left-arm wrist spin of Noor Ahmad, but he bounced back to claim 4/34 from his 10 overs.

Mujeeb Ur Rahman was also impressive and picked the key wickets of skipper Kusal Mendis and the in-form Sadeera Samarawickrama in consecutive overs. While Rashid, playing in his 100th ODI, cleaned up Dhananjaya de Silva with a brilliant googly.

However, as disciplined as Afghanistan’s bowling was, Sri Lanka’s batters didn’t help their cause by wasting a number of starts. Opener Pathum Nissanka, who had scored half-centuries in each of his four previous innings, was tentative and edged one to the keeper.

Even then, Sri Lanka were in a promising position at 134/2 with Mendis and Samarawickrama, two of their most consistent batters, putting on a 50-run stand. But they both ended up perishing in a span of 10 deliveries to hand Afghanistan the advantage. While Mendis suffered a familiar dismissal as his slog sweep was caught in the deep, Samarawickrama was bowled after going back to a delivery he should have played on the front foot.

It was a case of Sri Lanka’s batters simply not applying themselves enough at the crease. They hit just two sixes in their innings, the first of which came from Angelo Matthews’ bat in the 46th over. And the outcome of such an uninspired performance was a defeat that’s left their campaign hanging by a thread.


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