Afghanistan came up with a valiant chase at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore as they threatened to end Sri Lanka’s Asia Cup title defence. Facing an uphill task of chasing 292 in just 37.1 overs (or 295 in 37.5 overs), Afghanistan nearly did the unthinkable, riding on a sensational knock from their senior-most campaigner Mohammad Nabi. However, there was heartbreak for Afghanistan as they fell short of the target by 3 runs, getting bowled out for 289 in just 37.4 overs.
AFG vs SL, Asia Cup Highlights
In one of the most thrilling Asia Cup encounters, Afghanistan batters showcased their firepower, nearly pulling off an improbable chase. Mohammad Nabi hit Afghanistan’s fastest ODI fifty and finished with 65 off 32 balls as he swung the momentum in favour of the team after they lost early wickets. Nabi hit 5 sixes and 6 boundaries and threatened to take the game away from Sri Lanka.
Asia Cup 2023 points table
Rashid Khan, who has made it a habit to chip in with the bat under pressure, was at it once again as he hit 27 from 16 balls. However, he was at the non-striker’s end when Afghanistan’s hopes were dashed as he ran out of partners in the end.
Needing 15 from 7 balls, Rashid Khan hit 3 boundaries against left-arm spinner Dinuth Wellalage. The equation came down to 3 from 1 ball and Mujeeb Zadran was caught at long-on after a failed bid to clear the boundary.
Afghanistan had the opportunity to qualify if they scored 295 in 37.5 overs but Rashid Khan was denied the strike as Dhananjaya de Silva got the final wicket, having Fazalhaq Farooqi LBW for 0.
It seemed as if Afghanistan were unaware that they were still in the race in the decisive final over as there was no intent to steal a single and get Rashid back on strike.
Afghanistan showcased once again why they could prove to be a dark horse at the World Cup later this year. Despite losing early wickets after a fine opening burst from Sri Lanka’s pacer Kasun Rajitha.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, who hit a 151 against Pakistan last month, failed when Afghanistan needed him the most at the top as he was out for 4 to Rajitha. Ibrahim Zahdran fell for 7 while former captain Gulbadin Naib, who picked up 4 wickers, was dismissed for a quickfire 22 off 16 balls to Matheesha Pathirana.
MENDIS AND TAIL SHINE
Sri Lanka, who had won the toss and elected to bat first, put up a formidable total of 291 for 8. The highlight of their innings was undoubtedly the performance of Kusal Mendis. The 28-year-old batsman played an impressive knock, scoring 92 runs off just 84 balls. His innings was studded with three sixes and six boundaries, providing a solid foundation for the Sri Lankan total. Mendis’s performance was particularly noteworthy as he successfully navigated the Afghan bowling attack, including star spinner Rashid Khan.
However, Sri Lanka’s batting wasn’t solely about Mendis. A significant contribution came from the eighth-wicket partnership between Dunith Wellalage and Maheesh Theekshana. After several unconverted starts by other batsmen, this duo stepped up to the crease and delivered under pressure. They managed to add valuable runs to the total, taking Sri Lanka to a competitive score. Their stand of 64 runs from 63 balls demonstrated not only their batting skills but also their ability to handle pressure in a high-stakes match.
Despite a strong start and a fighting finish, Sri Lanka’s innings was marked by several missed opportunities. However, the team’s total gave them a fighting chance in the match, leaving Afghanistan with a challenging target to chase. The match served as a testament to the unpredictability and excitement of cricket, with individual performances like those of Mendis, Wellalage, and Theekshana playing a pivotal role in shaping the course of the game.