Rahmanullah Gurbaz’s 45-ball 84 (4x4, 6x6) was overshadowed by cameos from Bhanuka Rajapaksa (31, 14b, 4x4 1x6) and Danushka Gunathilaka (33, 20b, 2x4, 2x6) and good death-bowling as Sri Lanka beat Afghanistan by four wickets in the Super 4 stage of the 2022 Asia Cup in Sharjah on Saturday.
Chasing 176, Sri Lanka was 82 for two after 10 overs and 127 for four after 15. Needing 49 in 30 balls, Rajapaksa targeted Naveen-ul-Haq in the 16th over, hitting two fours and a six and enjoyed a slice of luck when he was dropped in the same over. It proved costly.
Earlier, Rashid Khan was brought on in the sixth over with two right-handers at the crease. But Kusal Mendis slog-swept him for two back-to-back sixes as Sri Lanka raced to 57 for no loss after six overs. However, Mendis was caught off Naveen in the very next over. Pathum Nissanka hung around for a while before falling to Mujeeb Ur Rahman (two for 30).
When Charith Asalanka inside edged Mohammad Nabi onto his stumps, there was a momentum shift. But some ordinary ground fielding allied with poor catching - there were two dropped chances - to catalyse Sri Lanka’s win. Rashid’s off day - he went for 39 and took one wicket - did not help.
Afghanistan’s focus while batting was maximising the PowerPlay. Opener Gurbaz took Afghanistan to 49 for one after the first six overs on a slow and low pitch. Gurbaz got a reprieve when he was caught at long-on off Maheesh Theekshana in the third over, but the fielder’s foot had touched the boundary skirting. He was on nine at the time. Gurbaz was bold but not foolhardy in his approach, running well between the wickets when the boundaries dried up from overs nine to 12. The highlight was his 22-ball 50, which he celebrated by waving his bat towards the fans while double-punching the national crest on his shirt. However, Afghanistan lost five wickets for 37 in the last five overs, which was decisive in the end.
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