Here are the major talking points from the Asia Cup 2022 opener in Dubai on Saturday. Afghanistan routed Sri Lanka by eight wickets and 59 balls to spare in what was its 100th T20I match.
Fazalhaq Farooqi’s searing PowerPlay spell
The left-arm pacer got the ball rolling for Afghanistan in the very first over of the match, vindicating Mohammad Nabi’s decision to bowl first. He removed Kusal Mendis and Charith Asalanka off the last two balls of the opening over. His in-swinger trapped Mendis in front before Farooqi’s extracted movement off the surface next ball, jagging one from outside off to get Asalanka LBW. Farooqi was on a hat-trick on the first ball of the following over, which was a maiden eventually. Gunathilaka just about survived the hat-trick ball with an inside edge onto the pads as Farooqi ended the PowerPlay with figures of 2-1-3-2. He returned in the 18th over, conceded just a couple of runs before cleaning up Chamika Karunaratne in the final over to end with figures of 3.4-1-11-3.
Sri Lanka’s batting muddle
Sri Lanka was tottering at 5 for three - its lowest-ever total at the the fall of the third wicket in T20Is - at the end of two overs. Danushka Gunathilaka and Bhanuka Rajapaksa briefly staged a comeback but some poor shotmaking and communication meant that Sri Lanka only sank deeper. A well-set Gunathilaka perished to a poorly-placed reverse-sweep, Wanindu Hasaranga and Matheesha Pathirana fell while sweeping and Rajapaksa and Maheesh Theekshana were run out off consecutive deliveries. It took a dogged rearguard from Chamika Karunaratne (31 off 38) to push Sri Lanka past the 100-run mark.
Afghanistan’s bowlers fire in unison
While Farooqi starred with three for 11, Mohammad Nabi and Mujeeb Ur Rahman took two wickets each while Naveen-ul-Haq also chipped in with a wicket. Surprisingly, ace spinner Rashid Khan, though economical, was wicketless - it was the first time that Afghanistan had bowled a side out in a T20I without Rashid picking a wicket.
Umpiring gaffe stuns Sri Lanka
After losing two wickets in the first over, Sri Lanka landed a surprise jolt in the second when Nissanka (3) was adjudged caught behind off Naveen-ul-Haq’s bowling. The ball seemed to shape away from the batter before an appeal from Afghanistan was agreed upon by the on-field umpire, Anil Chaudhary. Sri Lanka went up for a referral and in a surprise decision, the TV umpire Jayaraman Madanagopal declared Nissanka out despite no visible spike on the UltraEdge meter. Sri Lanka was effectively reduced to five for three in two overs while several players were left stunned in its dugout after the decision.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Zazai’s electrifying PowerPlay start
Hazratullah Zazai and Rahmanullah Gurbaz dashed any hope Sri Lanka might have harboured of making a comeback after setting a paltry 105. It didn’t help that Sri Lanka went into the tournament with an inexperienced pace attack. The nerves were evident as Dilshan Madushanka conceded 10 runs in the first over, which included five wides. Zazai and Gurbaz raced to 83 for no loss in the PowerPlay. Debutant Matheesha Pathirana was hammered for 16 runs in his first over while spinner Theekshana was also taken for 25 runs in his first two overs as Afghanistan stamped its authority and all but sealed in the contest inside the PowerPlay.