Sri Lanka has defeated a determined Afghanistan side by a mere two runs, securing a coveted place in the Super 4 stage of the Asia Cup 2023. This thrilling match was played at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, with Kasun Rajitha’s remarkable four-wicket performance and crucial contributions from Dhananjaya de Silva tipping the scales in Sri Lanka’s favor.
As the match started, Sri Lanka set a formidable target of 292 for Afghanistan to chase, with a caveat: to achieve victory within 37.1 overs or miss out on the Super 4 berth. The intensity of the encounter was palpable as Afghanistan embarked on a determined pursuit of the target.
The contest began with a blow for Afghanistan as star opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz departed early, dismissed by Kasun Rajitha after scoring just 4 runs. Gulbadin Naib, the right-handed batter, responded with a flurry of boundaries, but Rajitha struck again, sending both Afghanistan openers back to the pavilion.
Amidst the twists and turns, Hashmatullah Shahidi emerged as the driving force behind Afghanistan’s remarkable run chase. His steady and aggressive batting propelled him to a well-earned fifty. Mohammad Nabi joined forces with Shahidi, creating a dynamic partnership that kept Afghanistan’s Super 4 hopes alive.
Nabi’s explosive batting, marked by the fastest ODI fifty for Afghanistan off 24 balls, kept the contest on a knife’s edge. The duo’s combined efforts shifted the balance in favor of Afghanistan, with an impressive 80-run partnership that showcased their aggressive intent.
However, Sri Lanka’s bowlers fought back, and Nabi’s innings was cut short at 65. Even as Afghanistan continued to battle, Dhananjaya de Silva delivered a pivotal blow in the 38th over, dismissing Fazalhaq Farooqi and securing Sri Lanka’s hard-fought victory by a slender two-run margin.
Earlier in the match, Kusal Mendis led the charge for Sri Lanka with a gritty 92, bolstered by a late partnership of 64 runs between Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana. Their contributions propelled Sri Lanka to a commendable total of 291/8. Facing Afghanistan’s attack, Gulbadin Naib emerged as the wrecker-in-chief, claiming four wickets, while star spinner Rashid Khan scalped two.
“Very hard to defend such total”: Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka after clinching place in Asia Cup Super 4
Sri Lanka’s captain Dasun Shanaka has expressed relief and satisfaction at their hard-fought triumph against Afghanistan. The nail-biting encounter, which unfolded at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, showcased the prowess of Kasun Rajitha and Dhananjaya de Silva, ultimately allowing Sri Lanka to secure a coveted place in the Super 4 stage.
In the post-match presentation, Dasun Shanaka shared his insights on the intense encounter. “It’s a tough one, very hard to defend such a total,” Shanaka admitted. The captain acknowledged the significance of the wickets taken by Dhananjaya de Silva and himself, which proved to be crucial turning points in the game.
Shanaka also praised the batting efforts of Kusal Mendis, whose resilient knock of 92 laid a strong foundation for the team. He highlighted the vital partnership between Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana, which added crucial runs to Sri Lanka’s total. “We didn’t chip today. Credit to Theekshana and Wellalage – they played brilliantly to finish on 291,” Shanaka added.
- Sri Lanka 291/8 (Kusal Mendis 92; Pathum Nissanka 41; Gulbadin Naib 4-60)
- Afghanistan 289 (Mohammad Nabi 65, Hashmatullah Shahidi 59; Kasun Rajitha 4-79).