World T20: Dilshan steers Sri Lanka to victory against Afghanistan

Afghanistan captain Asghar Stanikzai scored a fiery 62 to help his team reach a competitive 153 for seven.

Tillakaratne Dilshan acknowledges the crowd after Sri Lanka defeated Afghanistan.   -  AP

Tillakaratne Dilshan positively respondent to Sri Lanka’s search for stability in its batting with an unbeaten 83 that took his side past the challenge of a resurgent Afghanistan in the first outing of ICC World T20 here at the Eden Gardens on Thursday. The well-crafted effort from Dilshan helped defending champion Sri Lanka overhaul the target of 154 set by the Afghans, with six wickets and seven balls to spare and got the islanders back to win after three successive loses in the Asia Cup.

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Earlier, Afghanistan was lifted by a commendable effort from its captain Asghar Stanikzai, who scored a fiery 62 to help the team reach a competitive 153 for seven after deciding to bat first. Dilshan, who is one of the most aggressive and innovative batsmen in the limited-overs cricket, showed why he is still valuable for the team at the age of 39 as he calmly led the charge to set up the Sri Lankan win.

Dilshan paired in an unbeaten 42 runs for the fifth wicket with captain Angelo Mathews (21 not out) as the two guided the team past the finish line. Afghanistan looked to be tightening its grip on Sri Lanka picking up a few quick wickets with its spinners and fielders doing some good work. Sri Lanka started the chase well with a confident opening stand as Dilashan and Dinesh Chandimal (18) got 41 runs on board. But once Chandimal was caught in the midwicket after mistiming a heave, Sri Lanka lapsed into a period of uncertainty with the quick departure of Lahiru Thirimanne (6), Thisara Perera (12) and Chamara Kapugedera (10), that forced the islanders’ score to 113 for four in the 16th over. Dilshan’s unbeaten 83 (56b, 8x4, 3x6) in the end proved to be the decider and renewed Sri Lanka’s confidence ahead of the meetings against bigger oppositions. >Read: If we click, we can do anything - Mathews

Batting first, Afghanistan made a spectacular turnaround in the last 10 overs as Stanikzai decided to go after the Sri Lankan bowling. Afghanistan, which qualified after beating Zimbabwe, did not look set for big score in the first 10 overs where it could score only 47 runs losing three wickets.

Stanikzai, joined by Samiullah Shenwari (31), began the rescue act with a 61-run stand for the fifth wicket, which came in just 33 balls and significantly changed the scenario. Afghanistan had two big overs when Stanikzai hit two giant sixes against left-arm spinner Milinda Siriwardana to pick 16 runs in the 13th over. The Afghanistan captain, who was dropped twice, utilized the reprieves well to score his 62 (47b, 3x4, 4x6) and make it a commendable effort in the end. Najibullah Zadran did some good hitting in the last over where Afghanistan picked up 17 runs off Nuwan Kulasekara to see his team excel in the death overs scoring 59 runs in the last five.