‘Hunt Anything’: Sri Lanka defeats Afghanistan in Asia Cup Super Four competition

SHARJAH: A fiery start from Kusal Mendis and a crucial goal from Bhanuka Rajapaksa in the lower division helped Sri Lanka to a four-wicket win over Afghanistan in the Asia Cup Super Four competition on Saturday (September 3).

Sri Lanka seeded 176 for the win, relying on an opening 62-run offensive stand between Pathum Nissanka (35) and Mendis (36) to complete their goal with five balls remaining in Sharjah.

Afghanistan’s bowlers regularly took wickets to dent Sri Lanka’s middle order, but Rajapaksa’s 31 from 14 balls and a Quickfire 16 that failed to get out of Wanindu Hasaranga helped them set the highest chase in the desert.

“It’s the belief of the dressing room, we believe we can chase anything in these kind of wickets,” said Sri Lankan skipper Dasun Shanaka.

“We’re getting better and better at analyzing the wicket when we’re chasing. A plan came into that game, we know they have good batsmen, but the lads executed the plans really well.”

Previously, Rahmanullah Gurbaz hit 84 to lead Afghanistan to 175-6, a total that could have been larger had the Sri Lankan bowlers not injured the Afghans with late shots.

Gurbaz’s efforts were in vain after he set up an important second wicket count of 93 with Ibrahim Zadran, who scored 40, after Afghanistan had been beaten first.

Afghanistan, who defeated Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to advance to the Super Four stage, managed just 37 runs in their last five overs and lost five wickets.

“We were missing about 20, 25 runs and besides that we didn’t play well on the fields or in the right areas,” said Afghan captain Mohammad Nabi.

“It’s a better pitch today than the one we played against Bangladesh, which is why I said we were missing a few runs.”

Sri Lanka’s Dilshan Madushanka, a left-arm quicker, took two wickets while Asitha Fernando, a quick bowler, and Maheesh Theekshana, spinner, won one each.

In response, Sri Lankan openers Nissanka and Mendis started strong on the power play.

Nissanka attacked the bowlers with a few boundaries and then Mendis took over by smashing leg spinner Rashid Khan for two sixes to raise his team’s fifty.

Fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq broke through to remove Mendis after his 19-ball blitz.

Nissanka tried to keep up the attack but fell to Spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman, with Gurbaz, who was named Man of the Match, making a sharp catch.

Danushka Gunathilaka made 33 to keep the pursuit on track despite losing Charith Asalanka and Shanaka at the other end.

He found company in the form of Rajapaksa, who beat Naveen in an 18-run 16th over for two fours and a six to lower the supply rate.

Rashid bowled Gunathilaka but new man Hasaranga hit three boundaries to bring Sri Lanka close to his goal.

Rajapaksa was eliminated in the 19th over before Chamika Karunaratne reached the breakeven point.