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September 6, 2023
Sri Lanka through to Super Four defeating Afghanistan by 2 runs in dramatic finish

Sri Lanka Cricket

Kusal Mendis Player of the Match 92

By Srian Obeyesekere

Sri Lanka won through to the Super Four by a nail biting 2 runs as a game Afghanistan edged closer and closer to going past the 291 target in the stipulated 37.1 overs when Mohammad Nabi blazed 65 off 32, but fell at the last post which had the battered and bruised minnows gone through would have knocked out the defending champions out of the 16th edition of the Asia Cup, but prevailed on the gung ho of  Player of the Match Kusal Mendis’ 92 off 84 and late stager stuff of Dunith Wellalage’s unbeaten 33 off 39 and Maheesh Theekshana 28 off 24 at Lahore’s Gadaffi Stadium.

In a typical rib bruising heart stopping showdown befitting a final, Afghanistan brought the game alive requiring 91 off 64 balls following Nabi’s 5 sixes and 6 fours assault in exiting at 201 for 5 after 26.3 overs having taken strike at 121 for 4 off 18.4 with 171 to win off 110. That it went down to the wire with Afghanistan 15 short of the target into the final over which Rashid Khan 27 off 16 (4×4, 1×6) cut down to three in a 3-boundary spurt but Mujeeb Ur Rahman fell to the last ball.

Sri Lanka’s strike bowler Kasun Rajitha took center stage with the ball claiming 4 wickets for 79 in that dingdong battle which included both openers Rhmanullah Gurbaz caught behind for 4, Ibrahim Zadran whom he clean bowled for 7 and No.4 Rahmat Shah held by Pathirana for 45. Dhananjaya de Silva performed an equally splendid job, brought on last sixth change, in accounting for 2 wickets for 12 in just one over and four balls and Dunith Wellalage’s 2-wicket leverage for 36 off 4 overs in the face of frontliner Maheesh Theeksahana proving expensive conceding 62 for 1 wicket and Matheesha Pathirana 63 for 1 off their 10 respectively, and Dasun Shanaka 32 off 2 overs.


Taking first lease on winning the toss Sri Lanka was on song 63 off 10.2 for the first wicket between Pathum Nissanka a run a ball 41 inclusive of 6 boundaries and Dimuth Karunaratne 32 off 35 with a similar number of boundaries when the latter was snapped up at cover by Mohammad Nabi off Gulbadin Naib who went on to send back Nissanka caught by Najibullah Zadran making it 80 for 2 after 14.4 overs. Naib went on to claim his third wicket in the space of 13 deliveries removing Sadeera Samarawickrama for 3 off 8 who edged a testing delivery to wicket-keeper Rahmanullah Gurbaz. Sri Lanka had been pushed back to a challenging phase at 86 for 3 after 16.5. It was to drum out the ideally slap bang response from Kusal Mendis who launched into the Afghan attack slamming 6 boundaries and 3 over the top with great support coming from Charith Asalanka who struck 36 off 43 containing 2 boundaries and a six in a 102-run bonding off 99 balls. Asalanka fell to the third ball of the 33rd over caught and bowled by Rashid Khan – 188 for 4. Dhananjaya de Silva made 14 off 19 as Sri Lanka lost the fifth wicket at 221 after 38.1 bowled by Mujeeb Ur Rahman. Afghanistan continued to peg seeing the back of Mendis 5 runs later when a dropped catch by Rashid Khan off Dasun Shanaka deflected onto the stumps at the bowler’s end. It was not the best of days for Shanaka as the Lankan skipper was bowled by Khan soon after for 5. At 227 for 7 after 39.3 Afghanistan was again on top, but Sri Lanka did once again find resistance in the form of Dunith Wellalage who played a match defining unbeaten innings of 33 off 39 in a calculated fronting of the situation tucked with 3 boundaries and a six in adding a crucial 64 for the eighth-wicket with Maheesh Theekshana who scored a game 28 off 24 upped by 2 boundaries and 1 over the top who was bowled by Naib off the final delivery.


Sri Lanka 291/8 (50 Overs)

(Pathum Nissanka c Naj Zad b Gulbadin Naib 41, Dimuth Karunaratne 32, Kusal Mendis r.o. 92, Charith Asalana 36, Dhananjaya d Silva 14, Dunith Wellalage n.o. 33, Maheesh Theekshana 28, Gulbadin Naib 4/60, Rashid Khan 2/63, Mujeeb Ur Rahman 1/60)

Afghanistan 289 (50 Overs)

(Ibrahim Zadran 14, Gulbadin Naib 22, Rahmat Shah 45, Hashmatullah Shahidi 59, Mohammad Nabi 65, Karim Janat 22, Najibullah Zadran 23, Rashid Khan n.o. 27, Kasun Rajitha 4/79, Dhananjaya de Silva 2/12, Dunith Wellalage 2/36, Maheesh Theekshana 1/62, Matheesha Pathirana 1/63)

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