Afghanistan showcased their growing maturity as a side in the World Cup and strengthened their hopes of reaching the semifinals by getting a seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka on Monday at Pune.
The Afghans first did it with the ball, by keeping the Lankans down to 241 runs in their 50 overs and then chased it down with ease with 28 balls to spare.
Azmatullah Omarzai was the top scorer for the Afghanistan team with 73 not out from just 63 balls in an innings that had six 4’s and three 6’s.
He was ably supported for the fourth-wicket partnership of 111 runs by captain Hashmatullah Shahidi who scored 58 not out from 74 balls.
Rahmat Shah, the no.3 in the batting order also gave the chase its required momentum with a 62 from 74 balls and he was crucial for the second and third wicket partnerships of 73 and 48 respectively with Ibrahim Zadran (39 runs from 57 balls) and Shahidi.
The chase didn’t get off to a good start as Sri Lanka struck early in the first over with an inswinging yorker by fast bowler Dilshan Madushanka to rattle the stumps of dashing opener Rahmanullah Gurbaz and have him walking for a duck.
But the platform for the Afghans was laid during their bowling performance, as especially that of the player of the match Fazalhaq Farooqi.
The left-arm pacer took four wickets for just 34 runs in his 10 overs to ensure Sri Lanka never really managed to post a total to properly challenge Afghanistan.
As usual, the spinners – Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Rashid Khan – chipped in with wickets while not going for too many.
Mujeeb finished with 2/38 in his 10 while Rashid was a bit more expensive in comparison with 1/50 in his 10.
There were starts all over for Sri Lanka but their batters never managed to score big.
Opener Pathum Nissanka (46 from 60 balls) was the top scorer here and captain Kusal Mendis was the second-highest scorer with 39 from 50 balls.
Sadeera Samarawickrama has been in fluent form and scored 36 from 40 balls but once again failed to convert, much like his other batting partners.
Mendis at the post-match presentation ceremony also admitted that the batting failed.
“Little bit short of runs, 240 not enough on this pitch, 280-300 would have been a good score. Our bowlers did well in first 10 overs, dew came in and it became hard to bowl later. Ball was coming good on the bat in the second innings; Madushanka has done really well, young guy…going forward (he will get better),” he said.