Pune, October 30 – Afghanistan’s remarkable journey in the Cricket World Cup just keeps getting better. On a sunny Monday in Pune, they secured a comfortable victory against Sri Lanka, marking their third win in the tournament. This exceptional performance has put Afghanistan firmly on the map of international cricket and has the cricketing world buzzing with excitement.
Their campaign had started on an impressive note with an early win against England, followed by a historic triumph over Pakistan in Chennai. The victory over Sri Lanka only adds more sheen to their already glittering campaign, as they have now mathematically positioned themselves for a shot at the coveted semifinal spot. The remarkable part? This was their third win against a former World Cup champion.
In their pursuit of a target of 242, Afghanistan faced an early setback when Dilshan Madushanka bowled out Rahmanullah Gurbaz. However, this early wicket did not deter Afghanistan, as they maintained their lead in the game throughout the run chase.
Rahmat Shah and Ibrahim Zadran took charge, both contributing with a boundary each, and Ibrahim Zadran even displayed his authority by hitting a six off Kasun Rajitha. Angelo Matthews, who had shone with the ball in Sri Lanka’s previous game, found himself on the receiving end as Afghanistan secured two boundaries in his opening over.
In the very next over, Azmatullah showcased his skills with the ramp shot, sending the ball for another six. These aggressive strokes helped Afghanistan gain control of the run chase. By the end of the 40th over, Afghanistan had already amassed 201 runs on the scoreboard, and the two batters sensed an opportunity for a convincing victory.
With their eyes on a substantial win, both Shahidi and Azmatullah shifted gears and embarked on a boundary-hitting spree. In the process, both players reached their respective fifties, displaying their class and determination. Ultimately, they successfully achieved the target with 28 balls to spare, sealing a memorable victory for Afghanistan. This impressive performance underscored the team’s growing prowess in international cricket.
In the earlier part of the day, Sri Lanka struggled to capitalize on a pitch that was favorable to batsmen, resulting in a loss of control over their innings by the halfway mark, with a final total of only 241 runs on the board.
Sri Lanka’s decision to reintroduce Dimuth Karunaratne to the lineup did not yield the desired results, as Fazalhaq Farooqi, making his return to the playing XI, dismissed Karunaratne early in the innings. Following Karunaratne’s departure, Pathum Nissanka stepped up to the plate, hitting a boundary in each of the next four overs, which finally provided Sri Lanka with some momentum.
Kusal Mendis, after a slow start, also found his rhythm and started playing aggressively. Despite the early setback, Sri Lanka managed to recover and build their innings through Nissanka and Mendis’ efforts, though they may have hoped for a more substantial total on a batting-friendly surface.
Sri Lanka managed to maintain a good run rate even after Pathum Nissanka departed for a well-earned 46, as the scoring pace continued. Kusal Mendis and Sadeera Samarawickrama then formed a partnership to stabilize the innings around the halfway mark, putting Sri Lanka in a promising position.
However, the course of the contest took a significant turn when Mujeeb Ur Rahman took charge and managed to dismiss both the well-set batters in consecutive overs. This crucial breakthrough shifted the momentum in Afghanistan’s favor, and Sri Lanka’s position in the match became less secure.
Additionally, Dhananjaya de Silva, who appeared out of sorts, was sent back to the pavilion by Rashid Khan, who deceived him with a googly. These wickets turned the tide in favor of Afghanistan, as Sri Lanka’s innings went through a significant change in a short span, impacting the outcome of the match.
With wickets falling at the other end, the responsibility to resurrect Sri Lanka’s innings fell on the experienced Angelo Mathews. However, even Mathews couldn’t prevent further wickets from falling around him. As the situation grew more challenging, it was Maheesh Theekshana who took charge of the scoring, while Mathews contributed crucial runs towards the end of the innings.