In a nail-biting encounter at the Asia Cup, Sri Lanka managed to edge out a resilient Afghanistan to secure a place in the Super Fours. The match, held at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, was a thrilling display of cricketing skills by both teams.
After winning the toss, Afghanistan elected to bat first. Their openers, Mohammad Shahzad and Ihsanullah Janat, got off to a solid start and provided a steady platform for the innings. Shahzad was particularly aggressive, hitting the Sri Lankan bowlers to all parts of the ground.
Sri Lanka, however, struck back with some impressive bowling and fielding. Their captain, Angelo Mathews, led from the front and dismissed Janat with a well-executed slower ball. Rashid Khan, the young Afghan prodigy, failed to make an impact and was dismissed cheaply. The Sri Lankan bowlers were disciplined and kept the Afghan batsmen in check.
Afghanistan managed to post a competitive total of 249/10 in their allotted 50 overs. Shahzad top-scored with a blistering knock of 72 runs, while Najibullah Zadran made a valuable contribution of 51 runs.
Chasing a target of 250 runs, Sri Lanka had a shaky start, losing both their openers cheaply. The Afghan bowlers, led by Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi, applied immense pressure and made scoring difficult for the Sri Lankan batsmen. However, Upul Tharanga anchored the innings with a composed knock of 36 runs.
A partnership between Dhananjaya de Silva and Mathews steadied the ship for Sri Lanka. They forged a crucial 109-run partnership, which brought the team back into the game. Mathews played a brilliant innings of 45 runs, while de Silva showed great composure and notched up a brilliant century.
With wickets falling at regular intervals, the match went down to the wire. The last over started with Sri Lanka needing 7 runs to win. Nabi, who had been exceptional with the ball, was given the responsibility to defend the total. However, Thisara Perera had other plans.
Perera, known for his big-hitting ability, smashed a boundary off the first ball to bring the equation down to 3 off 5. A single off the next ball tied the scores, and the match seemed destined for a tie-breaker. But Perera had different ideas. He launched Nabi for a six over mid-wicket on the third ball of the over, sealing a thrilling victory for Sri Lanka with 2 balls to spare.
The win not only secured Sri Lanka’s place in the Super Fours but also showcased their resilience and ability to handle pressure situations. Afghanistan, on the other hand, can take pride in their valiant effort and will be disappointed to have fallen short by such a small margin.
Both teams displayed exceptional skills throughout the match, making it a treat for cricket fans. With the Super Fours stage now set, Sri Lanka will be looking to carry this momentum forward, while Afghanistan will be keen to learn from this close encounter and bounce back in the tournament.