The chips down trailing Afghanistan by a smarting 1-nil defeat, it will be wake up reality time for hosts Sri Lanka heading into a literally do or die showdown against the high riding Afghanis in today’s second day-night ODI at the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium at 2.30 pm. The by now clear sunk in reality message Afghanistan’s cricketers have delivered to Dasun Shanaka’s charges is that they are no flash in the pan side and that the Lankans will need to produce nothing short of an ‘out of the box’ Herculean performance if they are to stop Hashmatullah Shahidi’s high riding team from their ominous rampaging thrust to making it two in a row. Indeed, Afghanistan produced the type of cricket nothing short of the ruthless in announcing to the world that here is a side no more in the teething minnows slumber. They were on song in all three departments of the game showcased by impeccable batting so sound at the top order to piling 234 runs between the top three accentuated by the brilliance of opening batsman Ibrahim Zadran’s dictating century while the bowling was as much showcased by the harmonising rhythm of the threesome spearheaded by strike bowler Fazalhaq Farooki’s 4-wicket burst and Gulbadin Naib’s 3 wickets and Yamin Ahmadzai’s 2 wickets.
The Lankans did carry the handicap of a lost toss that saw their opponents exploit a lively batting strip. But their undoing flaw was the batting that came apart against a hostile Afghan attack bar the resilience of Pathum Nissanka tucked into 85 runs and lower order Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva’s cameo 66, both of whom signified that there was reward for resolve. The once again reflective weak link in the Lankan batting of mere dependence on one or two players that was also a highly negative factor at the recent T20 World Cup must certainly be the area Dasun Shanaka and his top order will have to get over if they are to master Afghanistan’s threat to taking the first ever series between the two countries. While there is little breathing space for the Lankans to addressing the crucial centre piece drawback to the side’s bad fortunes not in just one moon but what has become a disappointing habit, it is the ‘Must’ put behind ‘NOW or Never’ wake up call the frontline batsmen will necessarily have to buckle down to if they are to swing the series Sri Lanka’s way.
Comparatively to Afghanistan’s on the spot bowling, the home team will need to find the cohesion that has been lacking, a feature evidenced glaringly even at the world cup where reliance on star bowler Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva has not been good enough for the big spoils.