Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Asia Cup: Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by 4 wkts

Sri Lankan batters showed enormous tactical acumen in yet another tricky run-chase as they defeated Afghanistan by four wickets in the opening Super 4 game of the Asia Cup here on Saturday.
It was fantastic bowling effort at the death that saw Sri Lanka restrict the Afghans to 175 for 6 with only 37 runs coming in the last five overs despite a brilliant 84 off 45 balls by Rahamanullah Gurbaz.
In reply, Sri Lanka chased down the target in 19.1 overs with several small but impactful contributions that sealed the issue for them. This was the highest run-chase in a T20I at Sharjah.
Just like great bowing at the death, the overs between 15-18 yielded 51 runs for the Lankans and that proved to be a game-changer.
Kusal Mendis (36 off 19 balls) started from where he had left against Bangladesh the other day as he launched into opposition’s best bowler Rashid Khan, depositing him for two successive sixes as 17 runs came in that over inside the Powerplay. His opening partner Pathum Nissanka (35 off 28 balls) also gave solid support as 62 were added for the opening stand.
However, it was Danuska Gunathilaka (33 off 20 balls) and Bhanuka Rajapaksa (31 off 14 balls), whose 32 runs stand of just 2.3 overs changed the complexion of the game.
Their daredevilry had enormous impact in the final outcome of the game as they hit sixes and found the gaps with ease. The Afghan bowlers, who are not always used to handling pressure situations, did falter in the end and Rashid’s poor day (1/39 in 4 overs) at the office did have its effect.
Put into bat young opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz gave a brilliant exhibition of his dashing strokeplay as his innings was the cornerstone of Afghanistan’s competitive total of 175 for 6.
However, Afghanistan will be a bit disappointed as the last five overs yielded only 37 runs and lost five wickets in a jiffy with Gurbaz’s dismissal putting some sort of a brake on the run flow. Gurbaz, the 20-year-old right-hander, who was a part of IPL champion team Gujarat Titans, smashed half a dozen sixes and added 93 in just 10.4 overs with Ibrahim Zadran (40) to take Afghanistan to a more than respectable total at the Sharjah Cricket ground.
Zadran though got a few lusty blows and so did Rashid Khan (9) towards the fag end of the Afghanistan innings to take the score close to 180.
While spinners Theekshana (1/29) and Hasaranga (0/23 in 4 overs) gave away only 52 in their eight overs, it was skipper Dasun Shanaka (0/22 in 2 overs) and Karunaratne (0/29 in 2 overs), who leaked 51 runs in four overs for the “fifth bowler’s quota”.
BRIEF SCORES: Afghanistan: 175 for 6 in 20 overs (Rahmanullah Gurbaz 84, Ibrahim Zadran 40; Dilshan Madushanka 2/37).
Sri Lanka: 179 for 6 in 19.1 overs (Kusal Mendis 36, Pathum Nissanka 35, Danushka Gunathilaka 33; Mujeeb Ur Rahman 2/30, Naveen-ul-Haq 2/40).

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