India Maharajas suffered yet another defeat as it went down to a resurgent Asian Lions by 36 runs in the Legends League Cricket tournament in Muscat on Monday.
In a massive dent to its final hopes, the Mohammed Kaif-led side was dominated by the Lions who put up a solid 193 for four on the board, with half-centuries from Upul Tharanga and Asghar Afghan.
After being sent into bat by India, the Lions were off to a dismal start as Stuart Binny dismissed Tillakaratne Dilshan off the first ball of the innings while fellow opener Kaluwitharana (13) fell soon after.
However, a solid 78-run partnership between Upul Tharanga and Mohammad Yousuf put the side back on track. Tharanga continued his fine run of form as he racked up his third fifty in as many games while Yousuf (26) fell to Aavishkar Salvi after stabilising the innings.
Tharanga paired up with Afghan, and the duo unleashed themselves onto a depleted Indian bowling attack, that missed numerous front-line bowlers to injuries. Tharanga struck seven fours and four sixes before eventually falling to Salvi for 72 (45b). However, Afghan stole the spotlight as he remained unbeaten on 69 (29b), smashing seven sixes and four fours during his belligerent knock that took the side past the 190-run mark.
In its reply, the Indians never got going as they lost the in-form Naman Ojha (4) to Shoaib Akhtar in the third over of the chase. While Wasim Jaffer rolled out a couple of fine strokes to keep the scoreboard ticking, before eventually holing out on 35 (25b). Yusuf Pathan (21), Stuart Binny (25) got off to firm starts but failed to capitalise, while an injured skipper Kaif's stop-start innings did little to elevate the chase.
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Seamer Manpreet Gony (35 n.o.) came in with a couple of lusty blows towards the end, but the target seemed well beside the grasp of the lower-order as India huffed and puffed on its way past 150 in the chase.
The Lions are now all but certain to feature in the final, while India will need to win its final league encounter against the World Giants on Wednesday.
Brief Scores: IMR 157/8 in 20 overs (Gony 35*, Jaffer 35; Kulasekera 2/14) lost to ASL 193/4 in 20 overs (Tharanga 72, Asghar 69*; Bhandari 2/41) by 36 runs.