Batting first, Sri Lanka posted a competitive 291 for 8 riding on a majestic 92 from Kusal Mendison a good batting pitch. For Afghanistan the target was not just to win but to win the contest in 37.1 overs to secure a spot in the next stage.And they went all out in their chase to achieve it, but missed it after coming agonisingly close to their target as they were bowled out for 289 in 37.4 overs.
As it happened: Afghanistan vs Sri Lanka
So, Sri Lanka topped Group B after the league stage and went through to Super Fours with Bangladesh. They joined India and Pakistan, who have qualified from Group A, in the next stage. Afghanistan and Nepal have been eliminated from the tournament after the group stage.
Here’s how Afghanistan tried hard but failed to achieve a daunting task of chasing down the massive 292-run target in 37.1 overs, paving way for Sri Lanka to progress:
Solid start, before triple blows
Sri Lanka got off to a solid start after opting to bat first in the crucial game. Openers Pathum Nissanka (41 off 40) and Dimuth Karunaratne (32 off 35) hit boundaries at regular intervals in the innings and denied early breakthroughs to Afghanistan. The duo added a solid 63 runs for the opening wicket, before Karunaratne fell in the 11th over to medium pacer Gulbadin Naib (4 for 60). Afghanistan fought back riding on the excellent spell from Naib, who not only provided the first breakthrough but followed that up with two more wickets in quick time. After Karunaratne, Naib dismissed the other opener Nissanka in the 15th over. The pacer left Sri Lanka in a spot of bother when he dismissed Sadeera Samarawickrama in the 17th over. Sri Lanka lost three wickets for 23 runs in 6.3 overs, and were reduced to 86/3 in 16.5 overs from 63/0 in 10.1 overs.
Mendis special knock
Sri Lanka’s wicketkeeper-batter Kusal Mendis stopped the rot and laid a solid foundation for a big finish. Mendis, who top-scored with a magnificent 92 off 84, slowly resurrected the innings in the company of Charith Asalanka, who contributed 36 off 43. The duo put on an impressive 102-run stand for the fourth wicket to take Sri Lanka to a position of strength, before Asalanka fell to Rashid Khan in the 34th over. Sri Lanka were 188/4 in 33.2 overs at that stage, looking good for a big total.
Afghanistan fought back before Sri Lanka’s solid finish
Rashis Khan led a Afghanistan fightback, taking two wickets and inflicting a run-out of the set Mendis in the 40th over. Mendis missed a well-deserved century when he was run-out in the non-striker’s end after the ball hit the stumps through the hands of the bowler Rashid. During the period of 34-40 overs, Afghanistan pulled themselves back in the contest by removing four wickets for 39 runs. Sri Lanka looked to have lost the plot, but No.8 Dunith Wellalage (33 not out off 39) and No.9 Maheesh Theekshana (28 off 24) took the team to a competitive total. The eighth wicket stand of 64 runs between the two pushed the total to 291 for 8 in the end.
Early blows to Afghanistan chase
Chasing 292-run target, Sri Lankan pacer Kasun Rajitha did not allow Afghanistan to get a good start to their run chase, removing both the openers early and cheaply. Rajitha dismissed Rahmanullah Gurbaz (4) in the third over, and came back to send Ibrahim Zadran (7) back to the pavilion in the fifth over. Soon Afghanistan were struggling at 50/3, when Gulbadin Naib was trapped leg before wicket by Matheesha Pathirana in the ninth over.
Fastest fifty and resurrections
First, it was Rahmat Shah (45 off 40) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (59 off 66) who resurrected the Afghanistan run chase with a solid partnership for the fourth wicket. The duo hit regular boundaries to not only keep the wickets but scored runs at a fairly good speed. They added a valuable 71 runs in 10.3 overs to put Afghanistan back on the course. Then entered all-rounder Mohammad Nabi as their No.6 batter, and changed the course of the game with his power hitting. Nabi smoked five maximums and six fours during his whirlwind 32-ball 65 knock as he broke the record of fastest fifty by an Afghan batter. Nabi raced to his fifty in just 24 balls, and added 80 runs for the fifth wicket with his skipper Shahidi in just 7.5 overs.
Tail wags but fails to take Afghanistan home
Sri Lanka bounced back with three quick wickets to send set batters back to the pavilion. From a comfortable 200/4, Afghanistan were reduced to 237/7 in a span of less than six overs, giving Sri Lanka a glimmer of hope. Both the set batters, Nabi and Shahidi, were among the batters to fall during the mini collapse. Afghanistan needed 55 off 5.2 overs at that stage with three wickets in hand to qualify for the Super Fours. Najibullah Zadran (23 off 15) and Rashid Khan (27* off 16) kept them alive in the race with some quality batting, but they eventually came short in the end paving way for Sri Lanka to progress further.