Vishwa Fernando 4/51. Rahmat Shah a praiseworthy 91.
By Srian Obeyesekere
Sri Lanka took control of the historic one-off test against Afghanistan dismissing the visitors for 198 runs in 62.4 overs despite the tricky decision by skipper Dhananjaya de Silva of putting the opposition to bat after winning the toss the opening day at the Sinhalese Sports Club Grounds that has traditionally been known to be batting friendly. At stumps the hosts were 80 for no loss in 14 overs with openers Dimuth Karunaratne 42 off 37 upped by 7 boundaries and Nishan Madushka 36 off 48 with 6 boundaries getting into their element.
Afghanistan did hog the first fifteen overs to reaching a respectable 109 for 3 despite the loss of opener Ibrahim Zadran for a second ball duck leg before to pacer Vishwa Fernandoas one drop Rahmat Shah held the batting together in posting 57 for the second wicket with Noor Ali Zadran who made 31 off 46 hitting 5 boundaries and 52 for the third-wicket with skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi 17 off 45 with a solitary boundary. But when it seemed Afghanistan had worked themselves to a position of putting up a promising score, the Lankans shifted things their way with Afghanistan losing their last eight wickets for just 89 runs. The collapse was triggered by Vishwa Fernando who caught and bowled Zadran Shah and followed it up by having the Afghanistan captain Shahidi caught behind by stumper Sadeera Samarawickrama.
When Nasir Jamal was bowled by leg spinner Prabath Jayasuriya for a duck nine balls after the dismissal of Hashmatullah Shahidi the touring team had slipped to 110 for 4 in 33.5 overs as the ploy adopted by Lankan skipper Dhananjaya de Silva of combining pace and spin paid dividends with Jayasuriya going on to send back bogey man Rahmat Shah for 91 who fell to an outstanding piece of work by wicket-keeper Sadeera Samarawickrama who dived to his left to scoop the ball inches from the ground after the bowler had induced him to a stroke that did not carry. From that point it was all Sri Lanka as Afghanistan further deteriorated from 155 for 5 following Shah’s dismissal to the first ball of the 46th over with the last 5 wickets falling for 33 runs. His innings off 139 balls contained 13 boundaries in what was the cornerstone to Afghanistan’s final score in a praiseworthy torchbearer effort coming from the pivotal batsman of a nation striving to come to terms with the arduous game of test cricket.
Vishwa Fernando was the pick of the Lankan bowlers with figures of 4 for 51 from 12 overs followed by a consistent Asitha Fernando who bowled a tight line and length to collect 3 for 24 off 14.4 overs in the final clean up while Jayasuriya kept pegging to finish with 3 for 67 off 25 overs.
It must be said of Lankan debutant Chamika Gunasekara who came in for some early stick and went wicketless for 50 runs off his 9 overs that the 24 -year old right arm medium paced youngster nevertheless displayed a pleasing smooth flowing action which does augur well for the future in a fast bowling industry that has its good and bad days for bowlers, more so considering the fact that it was his first shy in big time cricket.
Afghanistan 198 (62.4 Overs)
(Rahmat Shah 91, Noor Ali Zadran 31, Ikram Alikhil 21, Qais Ahmad 21, Hashmatullah Shahidi 17, Vishwa Fernando 4/51, Asitha Fernando 3/24, Prabath Jayasuriya 3/67)
Sri Lanka 80/0 (14 Overs)
(Dimuth Karunaratne n.o. 42, Nishan Madushka n.o. 36)