Charith Asalanka struck an unbeaten 83 off 72 balls powered by 4 sixes and 5 boundaries as he and 19-year old Dunith Wellalage, 31 off 21 with 4 boundaries and a six in an unfinished 65-run partnership in taking Sri Lanka to a heart stopping 4-wicket triumph in a record chase of 314 runs to pull off the third D/N ODI against Afghanistan with two balls to spare on Wednesday at the Pallekelle International Cricket Stadium. In a brilliant blend of 25-year old Asalanka and teenage prodigy Wellalage, the drama unfolded from walking a tight rope to Sri Lanka storming away with Asalanka smashing the winning six off Fazalhaq Farooki flat over deep square leg after the final over had been fronted with 13 needed for victory. Wellalage mounted the charge hammering the first ball for six over deep mid wicket. The next two deliveries were wides with the pair crossing over for a single off the third ball before Asalanka produced the final flurry to seal it in a defining Player of the Match innings having taken strike with Sri Lanka on 3 for 116 after 22.3 overs.
The all left-hand combination sixth-wicket bonding brought the game alive from the early pangs of needing 91 off 66 and 74 from 55 and 37 from 20 in a phase that saw young Wellalage take charge when his senior partner was bogged down in the 70s for quite some time with Asalanka not rushing into anything rash sensing the importance of retaining his wicket to the end. Full credit to Wellalage who took on responsibility with great aplomb as he moved from a sedate start when he parried with the Afghan attack gradually getting into rhythm.
The Lankans were to spoil Afghanistan’s party particularly Ibrahim Zadran’s record highest ODI innings of 162 off 138 with 15 boundaries and 4 sixes beating Mohammad Shahzad’s 131 not out in 2015. Sri Lanka’s run chase was built around a superb 101-run first-wicket partnership between Kusal Mendis who made 67 off 61 with 8 boundaries and a six and Pathum Nissanka 35 off 55 with 3 hits to the ropes. But Afghanistan did comeback picking 3 wickets in the space of 24 balls as the hosts skidded to 116 for 3 after 22.3 overs. But Dinesh Chandimal manning the pivotal No 3 slot did hold strong with 33’off 32 hitting a six and two boundaries in rallying the innings following the dismissal of Dhananjaya de Silva for 5 by Rashid Khan who accounted for his wicket and that of Pathum Nissanka with two impeccable googlies.
It was the entry of Skipper Dasun Shanaka in a run a ball 45 with 5 fours that marked a Lankan fight back in reviving the innings from 164 for 4 after 30.3 to 249 when he fell to the fourth ball of the 42nd over. 85-run fifth wicket stand between Asalanka and Shanaka though still left Sri Lanka facing an uphill make or break task which produced the final charge with the advent of Wellalage.
CHIEF SCORES: Afghanistan 313/8 50 Overs (Ibrahim Zadran 162, Najibullah Zadran 77, Rahmanullah Gurbaz 22, Kasun Rajitha 3/60, Wanindu Hasaranga de Silva 2/67) Sri Lanka 314/6 49.4 Overs (Charith Asalanka n.o. 83, Kusal Mendis 67, Dasun Shanaka 45, Pathum Nissanka 35, Dinesh Chandimal 33, Dunith Wellalage n.o. 31,.Rashid Khan 4/37, Mohammad Nabi 2/56)