Sri Lanka’s Thrilling Victory Over Afghanistan Secures Super Fours Spot in Asia Cup

In a high-stakes encounter at Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Sri Lanka emerged victorious, defeating Afghanistan by just two runs in a pivotal Asia Cup Group B match. This win secured their place in the coveted Super Fours stage of the continental tournament.

Opting to bat first, Sri Lanka set a challenging target of 291 for 8 on a favorable batting pitch, driven by a magnificent 92 from Kusal Mendis. For Afghanistan, the task was not merely to win but to do so within 37.1 overs, ensuring their progression to the next stage. They pursued this goal with unwavering determination but fell agonizingly short, getting bowled out for 289 in 37.4 overs.

As a result, Sri Lanka topped Group B at the end of the league stage, advancing to the Super Fours alongside Bangladesh. They joined India and Pakistan, who had already qualified from Group A, in the next phase. Regrettably, Afghanistan and Nepal bid farewell to the tournament after the group stage.

Here’s a closer look at how Afghanistan valiantly chased down the formidable 292-run target in 37.1 overs, ultimately paving the way for Sri Lanka’s progression:

Solid Start, Followed by Three Key Wickets

Sri Lanka made a solid start after choosing to bat first in this crucial match. Openers Pathum Nissanka (41 off 40) and Dimuth Karunaratne (32 off 35) steadily accumulated boundaries and thwarted Afghanistan’s early breakthrough attempts. Their partnership yielded a sturdy 63 runs for the opening wicket. However, medium pacer Gulbadin Naib (4 for 60) provided the first breakthrough for Afghanistan by dismissing Karunaratne in the 11th over. Naib continued to trouble Sri Lanka, claiming two more wickets in quick succession. After Karunaratne’s departure, Naib sent Nissanka packing in the 15th over. The pacer’s stellar performance left Sri Lanka reeling, as they lost three wickets for 23 runs in just 6.3 overs, reducing them from 63/0 in 10.1 overs to 86/3 in 16.5 overs.

Mendis’s Special Innings

Sri Lanka’s wicketkeeper-batsman, Kusal Mendis, halted the slide and laid a solid foundation for a substantial total. Mendis, the top scorer with an impressive 92 off 84, resurrected the innings alongside Charith Asalanka, who contributed 36 off 43. Together, they constructed a remarkable 102-run partnership for the fourth wicket, propelling Sri Lanka to a position of strength. However, their partnership was broken when Rashid Khan dismissed Asalanka in the 34th over. At that stage, Sri Lanka was at 188/4 in 33.2 overs, poised for a substantial total.

Afghanistan’s Spirited Fightback

Rashid Khan spearheaded a remarkable fightback for Afghanistan, taking two wickets and executing a run-out that ended Mendis’s brilliant innings in the 40th over. Despite missing out on a well-deserved century due to the run-out at the non-striker’s end, Mendis had propelled Sri Lanka to a competitive position. Between the 34th and 40th overs, Afghanistan made a remarkable comeback, claiming four wickets for 39 runs. Sri Lanka appeared to lose their momentum, but a resilient partnership between the eighth and ninth batters, Dunith Wellalage (33 not out off 39) and Maheesh Theekshana (28 off 24), propelled them to a competitive total of 291 for 8.

Early Setbacks for Afghanistan

In pursuit of a 292-run target, Sri Lankan pacer Kasun Rajitha made sure Afghanistan didn’t get off to a good start. He dismissed both openers quickly and inexpensively. Rajitha removed Rahmanullah Gurbaz (4) in the third over and then sent Ibrahim Zadran (7) back to the pavilion in the fifth over. As a result, Afghanistan found themselves in a precarious position at 50/3, with Gulbadin Naib being trapped leg before wicket by Matheesha Pathirana in the ninth over.

The Fastest Fifty and a Resurgence

Rahmat Shah (45 off 40) and Hashmatullah Shahidi (59 off 66) took charge of Afghanistan’s run chase, forming a sturdy partnership for the fourth wicket. They not only held their wickets but also scored runs at a good pace. Together, they added a crucial 71 runs in 10.3 overs, putting Afghanistan back on track. Then, Mohammad Nabi, the all-rounder, made a significant impact with his power hitting. Nabi smashed five sixes and six fours during his explosive 32-ball 65, breaking the record for the fastest fifty by an Afghan batter. He reached his half-century in just 24 balls and, along with his skipper Shahidi, added 80 runs for the fifth wicket in just 7.5 overs.

Tail-End Drama

Sri Lanka fought back with three quick wickets, dismissing the set batters and leaving Afghanistan at 237/7 within six overs. From a comfortable position at 200/4, Afghanistan faced a daunting task, needing 55 runs off 5.2 overs with three wickets in hand to qualify for the Super Fours. Najibullah Zadran (23 off 15) and Rashid Khan (27* off 16) displayed remarkable resilience, keeping Afghanistan in contention with some quality batting. However, their efforts ultimately fell short, allowing Sri Lanka to advance further in the tournament.

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